THE Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin last night apologised to the victims of a "predatory paedophile" who was jailed for 12 years for sexually abusing three boys.
Dr Martin admitted the church failed the victims of former priest Tony Walsh by being "too slow" in recognising his "grievous" abuse while based in a parish in Ballyfermot.
He was speaking after Walsh (57), who was named in the Murphy Report on abuse in the Dublin diocese, was sentenced to 16 years, with four suspended, for the abuse of three boys.
The former priest was previously jailed for sexually abusing six other boys.
Known as 'Fr Filth', Walsh was also an Elvis impersonator in Fr Michael Cleary's well-known All Priests Show.
Dr Martin said his first thoughts were with the victims and their families and that he hoped they would now have "some sense of justice, and closure and hope for the future".
"The Archdiocese of Dublin failed these children," he said. "It was too slow in recognising that Tony Walsh was a predatory paedophile.
"I can only unreservedly apologise to the victims of this man for what they endured and for the way in which the diocese failed them."
He said it was a tragedy this "dangerous man" was allowed to continue in his ministry even when the extent of his paedophile activity was identified.
"We now know that he may have been abusing children even during his seminary formation," he said.
Walsh pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to two counts of indecently assaulting a male in a west Dublin church between November 1978 and April 1979.
He pleaded guilty to a further charge of indecently assaulting a male in a west Dublin school between January 1984 and December 1985.
Walsh was convicted by a jury last month of a further nine counts of indecent assault and five counts of buggery on the third boy between June 1, 1979, and June 30, 1983. He had denied the charges.
Judge Frank O'Donnell yesterday described Walsh as a "serial offender" who had inflicted a "life sentence" on one of his victims.
"It is difficult to imagine more reprehensible circumstances than a priest in confession setting about the sexual abuse of a young boy," the judge said.
"This is a gross breach of trust, and that's putting it mildly," he added.
Tears welled in the eyes of some of Walsh's victims as he was sentenced to terms ranging from four to 16 years, to run concurrently.
The judge suspended the final four years of the 16-year term because of a report stating he was unlikely to re-offend.
Walsh, of Bunratty Road, Coolock, was previously put on the sex offenders register and will undergo two years of probation supervision on release.
Dressed in a grey anorak, he said "thank you" to the judge before being led away by prison officers.
Walsh previously tied up one boy with the ropes from his vestments before raping him. When the boy started to cry, he turned up the music to drown him out.
One victim, who is now an adult, told the court that as a result of the abuse he became mentally ill and made his first suicide attempt at 16.
While the abuse was ongoing he confided in his uncle about what Walsh was doing to him. His uncle then raped him.
The court heard that the now defrocked priest expressed remorse and accepted the gravity of some of his offences but still denied the most serious instances of abuse.
In 1996 he was convicted after trial of 19 counts of abusing six victims and sentenced to 10 years in prison. This was later reduced to six years on appeal.