Police urged to probe priest abuse claims following Cardinal Sean Brady's resignation refusal
Police should investigate the latest child sex abuse allegations to hit the Catholic Church, Amnesty International has said.
The human rights group said the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) should see if information on abuse was not acted upon.
This comes after Catholic Primate Cardinal Sean Brady defended himself against criticism, insisting he had passed on details of abuse to Church authorities, and claimed others had failed to act as he expected.
Amnesty's Northern Ireland programme director Patrick Corrigan said: "The protection of the rights of children is one of the most precious responsibilities carried by the state.
"Following the very serious allegations carried in this BBC programme, it now falls to the relevant state authorities to investigate whether any criminal laws have been breached.
"In short that means that the PSNI must investigate whether individuals failed to report a crime, an offence under Section 5 of the Criminal Law (NI) Act 1967, and whether any other offences - such as perverting the course of justice or conspiracy to pervert the course of justice - have been committed under Northern Ireland law."
He said authorities in Northern Ireland had to investigate the claims to show no institution is above the law.
This came as Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson said he was deeply disturbed by the latest child sex abuse controversy.
But he said the future of Cardinal Brady as Primate was a matter for the Church alone.
Mr Robinson said: "The most recent reports about child abuse within the Catholic Church are deeply disturbing.
"No one could fail to be moved as victims tell of the traumatic abuse they suffered.
"Today my thoughts are with the many victims who have never received justice and who still live with the mental and physical scars.
"I assure them of my continued support as they seek answers and justice."
He added: "In September 2011 the Executive established an inquiry into historical institutional child abuse.
"The framework of this inquiry was developed through consultation with victims.
"It is designed to meet their needs and will have the power to compel witnesses and documents.
"Whilst many are understandably asking serious questions about the Catholic Church leadership, the position of Cardinal Brady is a matter which the Catholic Church hierarchy and its individual members should determine."
His concerns over the latest allegations of the mishandling of abuse cases were echoed by Northern Ireland's Children's Commissioner.
Patricia Lewsley-Mooney said institutions, including the Catholic Church, should take responsibility for past failings and ensure they are not repeated.
"My office is on record consistently and proactively calling on government and other organisations to ensure that appropriate procedures and guidance are in place for all those who work with children and young people," she said.
"There are no exceptions, no excuses and no exclusions to this rule."
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