An institutional abuse inquiry in Northern Ireland has heard that gardaí were aware of the activities of paedophile priest Brendan Smyth as far back as the early 1970s.

Confidential documents revealed at the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry in Banbridge show that Smyth asked to be admitted for treatment at St Patrick's Psychiatric Hospital in Dublin after he came to the attention of gardaí in 1973.

The documents also reveal that Smyth had been diagnosed as a paedophile in 1973. 

Medical notes revealed Smyth was prescribed medication in the hope it would have a dampening effect on his libido.

The notes also showed he was regarded as being a "little bit crazy" and having "a screw loose".

Joseph Aiken, counsel for the inquiry, said: "For some reason Brendan Smyth has asked the doctor looking after him to write a letter to Finglas garda station to say that he is going to be taken in for some inpatient treatment."

Smyth had been conducting a retreat in Finglas in July 1973.

The documents were only released to the long-running HIA inquiry this morning.

The hearing was delayed for several hours today because the medical notes, which the Norbertine order had been trying to obtain for many years, were finally released from St Patrick's Hospital this morning.

In a letter to an officer at Finglas garda station dated 1 November 1973, Smyth's psychiatrist said he was recommending the cleric be admitted for treatment.

The doctor said: "I have been asked to write to you by Fr Brendan Smyth of Holy Trinity Abbey, Kilnacrott.

"He has been a patient under my care for some months and I am familiar with the nature of his problems. I am writing to his superior suggesting that he should have a period of inpatient care in St Patrick's Hospital or in St Edmonds Bury.

"I hope this arrangement will be satisfactory to you and your superiors."

According to a case summary dated February 1974, a doctor at St Patrick's confirmed a diagnosis of paedophilia.

The note read: "Psychosexual difficulties for many years. First developed in the Novitiate. A recurring problem no matter where he has been stationed. His paedophilia has brought him into contact with the police."

Smyth, originally from west Belfast but who was based at Kilnacrott Abbey in Co Cavan, was convicted of sexually assaulting more than 40 children in Northern Ireland in 1994.

But he told a treating doctor that the true number of victims could have run into the hundreds.

The HIA, which is sitting in Banbridge Courthouse, is examining whether systemic failings enabled Smyth to continue his offending for so long.

An Garda Síochána said this evening it is co-operating with the abuse inquiry and a spokesperson said it would not be appropriate to comment while the inquiry is ongoing.

Smyth may have abused thousands, says Lewis

The director of the One in Four service for survivors of sexual abuse has said Smyth may have abused thousands of children in Ireland and in the United States.

Speaking on RTÉ's Six One News, Maeve Lewis said the Norbertine priest had devastated lives.

She said her organisation had met survivors who struggled with every aspect of their existences; their marriages, their roles as parents and as professionals.

With help people could cope with their abuse but she said that not everybody gets help.

Ms Lewis said the most upsetting aspect of the Smyth story is that if people in authority had acted, lives could have been so different.

Referring to Cardinal Seán Brady, who appears before the inquiry tomorrow, Ms Lewis said it used to really irritate survivors when he referred to the church being on a "learning curve" concerning abuse.

She said the church is now good at child safeguarding. However, she complained that legislation to counter the problem was meandering through the Dáil without any sense of urgency being shown by legislators.

Ms Lewis also said that One in Four's counselling waiting list is full because of a lack of resources but that advocacy services could answer queries.

Meanwhile, a victim of Smyth has said it is appalling if it is true that gardaí were made aware about Smyth from the early 1970s.

Interview with Loreto Martin, abuse survivor

Loreto Martin was raped and abused by Smyth in 1975 from the age of 13. The abuse lasted five years.

She described the good days as the days he raped her. She said the bad days were the ones where he raped and photographed her.

Ms Martin called for a nationwide investigation into all parishes funded by the church and run by the State.

Anyone who may have been affected by issues in this report can contact the Connect counselling and support service on 1800 477 477 or the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre on 1800 77 88 88.