In a stunning development Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has effectively called for Cardinal Sean Brady to step aside because of his role in an alleged cover-up of child abuse.

Speaking in Washington where he will meet President Obama at the White House on St. Patrick's Day, Martin McGuinness described the Cardinal’s situation as “grave”.

He said: “I think many Catholics will be dismayed at the news that they are hearing now almost on a daily basis.

“It is a very grave situation which is before the Catholic Church and Catholic people in the North. I do think Cardinal Brady needs to consider his position.”

McGuinness is the highest ranking politician in public office in Northern Ireland where Brady serves.

Brady has now admitted that he helped silence two young abuse victims of the notorious serial abuser Father Brendan Smyth in 1975.

The Catholic Church yesterday attempted to defuse the controversy by releasing details about why Cardinal Brady asked the two child abuse victims to sign secrecy agreements.

The church said two boys were asked to sign oaths “to avoid potential collusion” in evidence gathering and to ensure that the complaints could “withstand challenge”.

The statement also pointed to Cardinal Brady’s junior position at the time of the inquiry, stating that he had “no decision making powers”.

But the Church statement failed to explain why Brady did not go to the police with the evidence that the two boys had been abused

 Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin who had four bishops fired who admitted cover ups in the diocese decline to call for Brady's resignation but stated a nationwide investigation parish by parish could be the only way to end the scandal.

He said: “It may be necessary if we cannot get a way of ensuring that the truth is out and people know that the truth is out,” he said.

“Brendan Smyth should have been stopped from the very first time he abused a child,” he said.