Report says 40 priests in Down and Connor accused of abuse
An independent review has revealed that allegations of child abuse have been made against 40 priests in the Down and Connor diocese over the past 50 years.
Twenty of the priests concerned are still alive, and eight of those are currently under investigation.
The review was commissioned by the diocese and reported in October.
It examined how the diocese handled allegations of clerical abuse made over a 50-year period from 1961 to 2011.
Twenty of the priests against whom complaints and allegations were made, or suspicions raised, are now deceased.
Of the 20 priests who are still living, six remain in ministry following the satisfactory conclusion of civil and canonical investigations.
A further eight are 'out of ministry' while they are under investigation, two have been convicted of abuse, and four have retired.
It is unclear what the status of the investigations against the retired priests is.Proactive
The review was commissioned by Bishop Noel Treanor of the Down and Connor diocese earlier this year, and is separate from the ongoing audits of dioceses across Ireland being carried out by the Church's National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSC).
It was conducted by Marion Reynolds and Dr John Devanney, both independent social-work experts appointed by the diocese.
Bishop Treanor said he wanted to do everything he could to reassure people that all allegations of abuse were being investigated.
"We must do all in our power to render both members of the church and society that we undertake every possible step to protect our children," he said.
"We need to ensure that we remedy any deficiencies and that we are capable of putting in place mechanisms, structures and provisions to ensure that our children are not in any way endangered."
The Down and Connor diocese, one of the largest in Ireland, has yet to be audited by the National Board.
A spokesperson for the NBSC told the BBC that the review was "was not something they were aware of and not something they have been involved in".
This is disputed by a spokesperson from the diocese of Down and Connor.
The spokesperson for the diocese said that they were being proactive in carrying out a review of abuse cases in advance of a formal audit.
"The independent review that was carried out by Down and Connor diocese is part of an ongoing process as part of the safeguarding procedures within the Down and Connor diocese," they said.
"As with all dioceses, we will be audited by the National Board for Safeguarding Children at a later stage.
"We will co-operate fully with that review, and welcome the opportunity to contribute to the important work carried out by the National Board."
The board helps to protect children in the Catholic Church from being abused by priests or anyone else. It was set up in the wake of various child abuse scandals.
The board is now reviewing every diocese in the country, examining what was done wrong in the past.