Father Shay Cullen spearheading a campaign that would empower judges to impose travel restrictions on sex offenders by canceling their passports.

A crusading priest has hit out at the Irish government's delay in introducing "urgently-needed" legislation to prevent convicted pedophiles from traveling overseas.

Father Shay Cullen, the Irish missionary who runs the PREDA child abuse charity in the Philippines, is spearheading a campaign which, once passed into law, would empower judges to impose travel restrictions on sex offenders by canceling their passports.

But he said he's increasingly concerned that vulnerable children in his adopted country and other developing nations will continue to be preyed on because of inaction by the Irish state.

His comments follow a debate in the Dail last week on the Sex Offenders Bill, after which it emerged that it could take at least another 12 months before it is progressed into law.

Independent TD Maureen O'Sullivan is working closely with Cullen to introduce the legislation, which would see Ireland become the first European country to make it illegal for convicted pedophiles to travel abroad.

But the Dublin Central TD, who is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, conceded that it will take at least another year before laws are passed -- with the attorney general now tasked in the intervening period in examining an amendment to the bill and determining exactly what travel restrictions can be legally imposed on convicted pedophiles.

She also voiced her concerns over the expected delays and urged the government to follow the lead of Australia, which last year fast-tracked pioneering legislation in just 10 days to stop convicted

pedophiles from traveling overseas -- a move which has prevented an estimated 800 registered sex offenders from leaving their country to offend again.

Cullen, a Nobel Peace Prize-nominated missionary, warned that many more youngsters in the Philippines and elsewhere will inevitably fall victim to pedophiles because "legislators are not moving quickly enough.”

The Dublin-born priest said, "The bill should be marked urgent, as many pedophiles are coming to this country and other south-east Asian countries where children suffer poverty and are vulnerable.

"Ireland has a duty to move swiftly on this, because to delay the law is allowing more children to be raped.  It needs to be given top priority, because the only people who benefit from the delays are the pedophiles."

Cullen, who is also actively lobbying the German and U.K. governments to follow the Australian lead, added, "Sex tourism from Ireland is growing and more Irish bars are opening in the Philippines. The legislators in Ireland are in favor of it, so it ought to be a swift matter to pass it like Australia did last year in just 10 days."

During her recent Dail debate, O'Sullivan urged legislators to prioritize the welfare of child victims rather than the legalities surrounding the travel rights of their abusers.

"The bill is about trying to protect children who are easy prey for sexual predators in countries where the authorities cannot or will not protect them,” she said.

"If European countries can prevent football hooligans from travelling to matches, surely we can do more to save children from convicted sex offenders, because the lives of children are more important.

"There is a right to travel, but how can we possibly agree with the right to abuse, hurt and sexually exploit children."

Father Shay Cullen.