More Catholic priests face being charged with child abuse in the Republic following inquiries by a Garda team set up after the damning Ryan Report.
Up to 20 files are to be sent to the Irish Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) by a special squad of detectives investigating fresh complaints of sexual and physical assaults by clerics.
The files are expected to be completed in the coming days and will then be forwarded to the DPP to determine if criminal charges should be brought against any of the suspects.
In another development last night, it emerged that senior members of the clergy could be interviewed by gardai as part of a separate investigation into the Murphy Report on clerical abuse in the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin.
Officers examining the Murphy findings will decide shortly if they need to interview bishops and other clerics, or members of the garda force and the HSE as part of the investigation.
Gardai said they had the power to interview anybody deemed to be in possession of relevant information.
The revelations came as Pope Benedict XVI left Britain after a four-day visit yesterday.
The pontiff acknowledged the sex abuse scandal “seriously undermines the moral credibility” of the Church.
But he said Church leaders had taken “serious steps” to ensure children were protected from harm.
The progress in the Ryan inquiries follow the setting up of a telephone hotline, which resulted in new lines of investigation in the Republic and in the UK into 150 fresh complaints.
All of the complaints were lodged with the gardai after the publication in May last year of the Ryan Report, which detailed horrific abuse by members of religious orders.
A group of clerics accused of abuse offences have since died and those inquiries have been closed while other callers wanted details of progress achieved on allegations that had already been made.
But detectives also carried out extensive inquiries in the Republic and in Britain into new allegations. A number of the alleged offences took place some years ago and are regarded as historic.