Irish priests will be jailed for up to five years if they fail to report child abuse to police – even if they are told of it in the confessional box.

The government is pushing through new legislation in the wake of the damning report on abuse in the Diocese of Cloyne.

The latest report highlights a major cover-up in the Cork diocese which found the bishop of Cloyne ignored church guidelines that all suspected cases be referred to police.

The new laws will give Irish courts the right to jail any priest who withholds information relating to child abuse, even if he hears it in confession.

Under canon law, priests face excommunication from the Catholic church if they reveal anything they hear in the confessional box.



A round up of today's top Irish news

Bishop of Cloyne apologizes from American hideaway

New Irish church inquiry slams former Bishop John Magee -- Says secretary to three popes 'kissed and embraced' teenage boy

New child porn charges against disgraced priest Oliver O’Grady

Doctors and lawyers are also covered under the new laws despite professional oaths of patient and client confidentiality.

Ireland’s Minister for Justice Alan Shatter vowed to introduce the new laws as quickly as possible after the Cloyne report highlighted how abuse allegations made as far back as the 1960s were covered up at the very highest levels in the County Cork diocese.

The report from a commission led by Judge Yvonne Murphy outlined that:

-        Bishop John Magee was the person primarily responsible for the diocese’s failure to report abuse claims

-        Dr Magee continually breached agreed child protection guidelines over a period of 13 years between 1996 and 2009

-        Nine out of 15 alleged abuse cases reported to the diocese between 1996 and 2005 were not referred to police.

The report also revealed that Bishop Magee came under investigation for alleged inappropriate behavior with a former altar boy but the Director of Public Prosecutions decided not to press charges following a police inquiry.

The report is also critical of a lack of police activity in three cases.