Reports that the Vatican intends to force the resignation of the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland over the paedophile priests scandal have been dismissed by his spokesman.

It was reported today that nothing less than Cardinal Brady's resignation will diminish fury at the highest levels in Rome over his role.

Cardinal Brady's spokesman said: ‘This kind of headline on a story I would not dignify with a response. We are entering Palm Sunday and Holy Week and the universal Church is focused on the celebration of the Resurrection and all that it means for the Church.’

‘Ireland needs a fresh start,’ a source in Rome told the newspaper. ‘By clinging on, he is putting his own interests before the Church's.’

Dr Brady apologised last week for his role in a church tribunal on allegations made by a 14-year-old boy against Smyth, a priest whose case brought down the Government in 1994. The victim was sworn to secrecy after the proceedings.

But according to the Times newspaper, the view in Rome is that this has not gone far enough and there has been no popular groundswell of support for Dr Brady in Ireland.

The cardinal is in a legal battle with a man who claims he was abused by Fr Smyth and faces calls to withdraw his defence.

The victim's legal team also asked the cardinal to withdraw his defence to give ‘practical expression’ to the cardinal's recent statements of remorse about clerical sexual abuse.

The churchman recently apologised to anyone who had been hurt by any failure on his part.

Victims have called for the cardinal's resignation after it emerged that he was present at two meetings in the 1970s when victims of Smyth were sworn to silence about what had happened.

The information provided by the victims was not passed on to gardaí and Smyth went on to abuse many more children.