A PARISH priest at the centre of an assault allegation has been granted permission to take a period of leave on health grounds by the Dublin Archdiocese.
Shocked parishioners in Athy, Co Kildare, were told during weekend Masses that Father Michael Murtagh had been granted leave.
One parishioner said she was aware there were "disturbances in the parish" but she didn't know the details.
Another woman who was visibly shocked by the announcement said she was "very sad".
Fr Murtagh is the subject of a number of complaints which are being investigated by the archdiocese. None of them are of a sexual nature.
It is alleged that Fr Murtagh assaulted a parishioner outside St Michael's Church in Athy after Sunday Mass last November 8.
Another complaint against Fr Murtagh alleges that he removed a child with learning difficulties from the confessional box and out of the church.
In another incident, it is alleged he made jokes about the parish curate at a cemetery prayer service.
The Dublin Archdiocese initiated a public consultation process in St Michael's parish on foot of the complaints.
Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin directed that a formal investigation into the assault allegation take place and the alleged confessional incident has been referred to the Diocesan Child Protection Service.
Fr Murtagh has strongly denied the allegations.
Investigations by the Dublin Archdiocese are continuing.