She was speaking ahead of a 'Voices of Faith' conference

Former President Mary McAleese says the reasons given by the Catholic Church against women priests will disappear.

She was speaking ahead of a 'Voices of Faith' conference to mark International Women's Day.

The event brings together Catholic women from across the globe to share experiences and create dialogue with leaders.

Speaking ahead of the conference in Rome, Mrs McAleese said: "Our pope tells us that the issue of women priests is off the agenda - so my answer to that is 'fine, if it's off the agenda let's talk about what then should be on the agenda.'

"Because the very fact of permanently excluding women from ordination then begs the question: how then do you propose to include women effectively in decision-making since all decision-making, discernment in relation to faith formation, discernment in relation to policy and doctrine is filtered exclusively through that male clerical cast, which is the priesthood.

"So it seems to me that those who argue that women can never be priests have got now to be put to the pin of their collar - clerical collar, obviously - to explain then the radical, innovative ideas and the strategies that they are going to evolve for the effective inclusion of women in roles of leadership in the church since they cannot exercise the role of priestly ordination.

"I think over time, the arguments that are based on a so-called theology will just fall away as so many (have)."

"To be honest, I think the arguments against women in priesthood they're going to fall away because... priesthood is falling away - in the western world, nobody's interested in this role anymore.

"Yes in Africa, yes in the poor developing countries and the hierarchical church beats its breast and tells us how wonderful it is, they've all these wonderful vocations right around the developing world.

"And I say 'I come from Ireland, we were that developing world - we know how this story ends'".