A NOTORIOUS paedophile priest was returned to prison just hours after being slashed across the face while walking to his cell from Mass.
Tony Walsh -- who has been defrocked -- was attacked at the Midlands Prison in Portlaoise, Co Laois, on Sunday morning.
The attack occurred exactly one month after the 56-year-old was jailed for 16 years following sexual attacks on three young children more than 20 years ago.
Walsh -- who was the focus of one chapter in the Murphy Report into the handling of priests' sexual abuse by the Catholic Church -- was also jailed for 10 years in 1997 for indecently assaulting young boys in the 1980s.
It is understood that he needed up to 12 stitches following the attack but was returned to his cell after a short stay in the Midlands Regional Hospital.
Both the Prison Service and the gardai have begun separate investigations into the attack.
"He wasn't able to identify his attacker, so that will make the investigation more difficult," a prison source said last night.
CCTV footage will be examined in an attempt to identify the attacker.
Chapter 19 of the Murphy Report, which was published last month, described Walsh as probably the most notorious sex abuser to come to the attention of the Commission of Inquiry into allegations of child sexual abuse in the Dublin Archdiocese.
It detailed incidents of abuse over 15 years and concluded that he was moved from parishes in Ballyfermot to Westland Row to avoid further scandal.
It outlined how Walsh abused children in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, even though priests, canons, monsignors, bishops and the Archbishop in Dublin knew about it.
Ten years after the first complaint, the church authorities sent him to Britain for treatment.
The report from that treatment described Walsh as "a very disturbed man" who "is always going to be dangerous" and "could not be let near schools, children, confession etc".
But Walsh continued as a priest and continued to abuse.
In January 1996 -- 16 years after the first complaint -- he was finally dismissed as a priest.
He was given €10,500 severance pay but continued to represent himself as a priest.
At Dublin Circuit Criminal Court last month he pleaded guilty to two counts of assaulting a male in a west Dublin church in the late 1970s, and indecently assaulting a male at a school in the mid-1980s.
He was jailed for 16 years with the final four years suspended. Leave to appeal the sentence was refused.