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Archbishop Martin has reported four potential abuse cases in past 12 months

By Cate McCurry

Published 06/11/2015

Eamonn Mallie interviewing Archbishop Martin on Irish TV
Eamonn Mallie interviewing Archbishop Martin on Irish TV

The Archbishop of Armagh has revealed that he has reported suspected clerical abuse to the authorities on three or four occasions since becoming the leader of Ireland's Catholics.

Since Archbishop Eamonn Martin became all-Ireland primate last September, he said there have been three or four occasions when he feared a vulnerable person was being abused by a priest.

The church leader said none were children and none of the cases were taken forward by the authorities.

In a wide-ranging interview with veteran broadcaster Eamonn Mallie, to be shown this Sunday, Dr Martin also said he believes it is possible for a gay man to be a priest - but not a woman.

He added that he has "no problem" with priests who have gay tendencies as long as they remain celibate.

The man who once harboured ambitions of becoming an engineer and marrying his teenage sweetheart now leads the Catholic church during a turbulent period.

He also confessed his desire to be a father and that one of the biggest challenges in the priesthood has been celibacy.

When pressed about how many times he has referred any potential criminal cases of sexual abuse since becoming Archbishop, the cleric replied: "Since last September there have been a number of cases, not of child abuse, but cases where we have been worried that someone who is vulnerable may have been abused by a priest.

"In the past year, there have been three or four situations which I have referred and none of them at this point have been determined by the civil authorities as something that they would process."

Asked if the danger of deference in the Catholic Church had led to child abuse being covered up, he said: "That can happen and we have seen that very sadly and very dramatically in the betrayal of the trust that has happened within the church.

"I do agree that's one of the dangers of clericalism, being part of 'The Firm' (is) being unable to bring any scandal on the institution."

Dr Martin also admitted he has been tempted by women since becoming a priest and that he regularly has to "check himself" in this "hyper-sexualised" culture.

"I think any man does have to be careful and you have to have boundaries in your behaviour," he added.

"Sometimes I do wish I was a daddy. When I see my brothers and my sisters with their children, that does make me wonder, 'God I would love to have my own children'."

The 54-year-old, who was born in Derry, also addresses homosexuality in the priesthood saying: "It's not a problem for me".

He said there are priests who have gay tendencies in the same way priests have heterosexual tendencies, but added that they all have made a commitment to remain celibate.

The Primate of all-Ireland said it is important that women are given significant roles in the life of the Catholic Church and that they feel they are given just as important a place in the church as men.

But he added that this did not include becoming a priest or bishop.

Following the recent referendum on gay marriage in the Republic of Ireland, he claimed that many people voted 'yes' because they knew a gay person and that others may have voted in favour because they were told it was a question of equality, which made it "hard to argue against".

He claimed that young people co-habiting and having sex before marriage was not morally right and that it should remain within a marriage relationship.

Eamonn Mallie Meets will be broadcast on Irish TV at 10pm on Sunday night. It is available on Sky and Freeview at channel 191, Freesat channel 400, and at

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