Former Irish President Mary McAleese has been urged to ‘name and shame’ the senior Catholic Church leader who mocked the victims of clerical child sex abuse.

Theology student McAleese has revealed that the senior cleric ‘laughed’ when she told him to ‘tell the people of God’ details of sexual abuse within the Church.

The Irish Independent reports that a leading children’s rights campaigner believes that McAleese has a “duty” to disclose the identity of the person involved.

The church leader had visited the then President to ask for advice as the Irish state began to investigate clerical sex abuse in the 1990s.

McAleese told the paper that the visit occurred at a time when church authorities were under increasing pressure to investigate a variety of abuse allegations.

She recalled: “I suggested to him that the church should open up the diocesan archives and, having carried out a relevant audit relating to the allegations, tell the people of God what’s going on.

“But the cleric only laughed at me. I said if you don’t, the state will intervene. And his last words to me, getting into the car, were ‘the state would never cross that line’. A week later, the state crossed that line.”

McAleese added that she has been ‘embarrassed’ at the manner with which Catholic clergy have handled child abuse inquiries.

She said: “I love my church, but I’m embarrassed that these people who suffered so grievously, and who were so hurt by church officials, could not rely on that church to be the vehicle for getting the information out, and for getting their vindication out.”

Now children’s rights campaigners have urged McAleese to identify the cleric she mentioned in her speech, made during her recent visit to Australia.

Mary Flaherty, CEO of the Children at Risk in Ireland group, told the Irish Independent that McAleese has a ‘duty’ to disclose the identity of the person involved.

Flaherty said: “We need to know this person is no longer in a position of influence.

“It’s a very strange thing for her to bring something so serious halfway into the open. It’s an extremely concerning account, and the full information should definitely be in the public arena.”