On Tuesday Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Irish bishop Dr William Lee, 71, who told the press he was stepping down for health reasons. Bishop Lee has been ill for several years.

Bishop Lee, the bishop of Waterford and Lismore, claimed his resignation was for health reasons and made no mention of his handling of  abuse allegations several years back against a priest in his diocese.

A native of Newport in County Tipperary, Bishop Lee was ordained a priest in 1966 and later served as President of St Patrick’s College in Thurles before being ordained the Bishop of Waterford and Lismore in 1993.

'As you are aware in July 2011 I was diagnosed with serious illness and, since diagnosis, I have been under medical care,' he said.

'Recently the medical advice to me has been that, in the interests of my health, I should retire from the office of Bishop of Waterford and Lismore,' he added.

'Accordingly, I have in the past few weeks submitted my letter of resignation as Bishop of Waterford and Lismore to Pope Francis. The Holy Father has considered my request and graciously accepted my resignation.'

Bishop Lee publicly apologized in 2010 after he admitted his response to child abuse allegations in the mid-1990s was 'seriously inadequate.'

According to Yahoo News, faced with multiple claims of abuse by a priest in his own diocese, Lee arranged for the man to undergo a specialist assessment but failed to remove him from ministry until 1995.

'I particularly regretted that I had not sought the immediate withdrawal of the priest from all ministry and that others associated with the new ministry were not informed that allegations had been made,' Lee said at the time.

'I sincerely apologise and am deeply sorry for the inadequacies of my earlier actions in this case.'

The offending priest was finally withdrawn from all ministry by February 1996, after further complaints were made against him, Lee said.

Michael Kelly, editor of the Irish Catholic newspaper, told the press this week that Bishop Lee's resignation leaves three dioceses in Ireland awaiting a new bishop.

'It allows Pope Francis the opportunity to very much make his mark on the type of men he wants to be bishops in Ireland,' he said.