The Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, Dr John Neill, is to retire in January shortly after turning 65.

Before his election eight years ago, he had been pivotal in having women ordained in his own church and influential in promoting the controversial reform abroad.

The advent of women priests has proved to be deeply divisive in the world-wide Anglican Communion.

In 2006, Archbishop Neill helped to defuse the occupation of Dublin's St Patrick's Cathedral by over 40 Afghan asylum-seekers.

This year he described as ‘deeply disturbing’ reports by former residents of abuse in the Protestant Bethany Home.

Church of Ireland clergy sat on the former Home's management committee. But the Church claims they were independent trustees.