Bishop of Waterford and Lismore Dr William Lee has described as 'seriously inadequate' his handling of child sexual abuse allegations against one of his priests in the mid-1990s.

Dr Lee apologised for delaying two years before telling gardaí about the complaints.

In a statement to RTÉ News, he says he particularly regretted that he had not sought the immediate withdrawal of the priest from ministry.

Bishop Lee says the complainants were adults when they made the allegations in December 1993 and that without administering oaths he met them over the following year to hear their stories.

He also satisfied himself that they were being adequately supported.

Meanwhile, guided by a psychiatrist's recommendation that the priest could safely work with children, Dr Lee moved him to a new ministry as part of what he calls 'the ongoing diocesan changes'.

He says he did not tell the priest's new colleagues about his background.

However in October 1995, after benefitting from the advice on child protection in the hierarchy's soon-to-be-published guidelines on sexual abuse, the Bishop concluded that his decisions had been 'seriously inadequate'.

He reported the priest to the gardaí that December with the complainants' knowledge.

Six weeks later, the Bishop removed him from ministry after getting him assessed at a different treatment centre.

Dr Lee says the complainants themselves took the decision not to make a criminal complaint and, insofar as he is aware, that has remained their decision to this day.