Archbishop of Cashel Dermot Clifford said this week that Ireland's "best and most loyal Catholics" have been highly critical of the Irish church in their meetings with bishops.

"Many people are hurt and disappointed," Archbishop Clifford told the press in an interview to mark the 40 anniversary of the Bishops’ Council for Research Development, of which he is chairman.

It was worrying, Archbishop Clifford added, that at present so many people were so highly critical "when we go out and do meetings and send out surveys, questionnaires, and so on."

The church's recent surveys, which have not been analyzed in full yet, aim to find out whether the church's message is getting through and how successful its initiatives are, Clifford said.

“It gives a picture of where we are at a particular time, which is what all surveys do,” he said.

In a separate development, the Bishop of Kerry Bill Murphy has issued a strong apology to the Irish laity for "the hurt and pain" that survivors of clerical child sexual abuse have experienced.