There have been calls for an investigation into the scale of clerical sex abuse in Africa following revelations about abuse by Irish missionaries, priests and brothers.

Last night's Prime Time Investigates programme on RTÉ One exposed several cases of abuse across the continent.

In one case, the abuse continued until just five years ago.

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has said he watched the programme with a sense of revulsion at the unspeakable catalogue of abuse against children it revealed.

'While the behaviour took place abroad, we have a solemn duty to do all that is within our power to ensure that perpetrators of this predatory abuse of children are brought to justice wherever it takes place.'

He said the law does provide in the Sexual Offences (Jurisdiction) Act, 1996, that in certain circumstances persons can be tried here for sexual offences against a child which are committed abroad.

The minister said he had been in contact with the Garda Commissioner about the matter.

The Superintendent in charge of the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Investigation Unit is to be appointed to examine the programme.

In particular, the Superintendent will examine whether any criminal behaviour was disclosed which can be pursued in this jurisdiction, according to Minister Shatter.

The minister also said gardaí are liaising with the Health Service Executive about any child protection issues that arise in this jurisdiction from the presence here of a number of persons identified in the programme.

Meanwhile, Fr Eamon Aylward of the Irish Missionary Union said he was very shattered by last night's programme.

Asked this morning if he would like to see a Murphy style investigation into abuse of children by some missionaries, he said it would be difficult to investigate crimes in 83 different countries, but that in Ireland 99.9% cooperation with State authorities is in place.

In relation to informing African authorities of abuse, he said that would be complex and would depend on individual cases as questions regarding the ethos of different cultures can arise.