GALWAY, Ireland (Reuters) - Ireland's Prime Minister Enda Kenny said on Tuesday he stood by his comments that the Vatican hampered an inquiry into child sex abuse by Irish priests after the Holy See refuted his accusation last week.
In its first formal response to the rebuke, The Vatican said Kenny's accusations that it sought to cover up child sex abuse and had interfered in Irish law were "unfounded."
However Kenny, whose remarks have been widely applauded in Ireland, reiterated that requests made by a government-appointed commission for Vatican assistance in an inquiry were either refused or rejected.
"As a member of the Catholic church, I want to see that the church is absolutely above reproach in the issue of this and other areas and for that reason my claim in the Dail (parliament) still stands," Kenny told reporters in his first response since the Vatican released its detailed statement.
"I made the point that this is a statutory commission of inquiry and as such, nothing less than full cooperation is required and anything less than full cooperation, in my view, is unwarranted interference."
Tensions between the Catholic Church and the Irish government, once firm allies, have become further strained since the Irish parliament passed a motion in July, accusing the Holy See of "undermining child protection frameworks" after a report into sexual abuse in the diocese of Cloyne in county Cork.
The Cloyne findings followed two similarly damning reports in 2009 and 2010 that have further undermined the Church's once dominant position in Ireland.
"Every organization, either faith or any other, will understand that the law of the land will apply here," Kenny said at his Fine Gael party's annual parliamentary meeting in the western city of Galway.
"Let me assure you that what was in my mind was an expression of the anger and the frustration and the concern of so many people in this country about issues over a very long number of years."
(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Louise Ireland)