Reports about child protection in the Catholic Church were published this afternoon.

The main body of the Health Service Executive audit deals with all dioceses in the Republic, while a second part is specific to complaints made in the Diocese of Cloyne.

Read the audit here

Three years ago, the Ferns report showed how the Catholic Church in that diocese failed to deal properly with allegations of child abuse by its priests.

The Government then started to look at how other dioceses dealt with child abuse.

It wanted to know if the church is following child protection guidelines put in place after the Ferns report - for example, if it is passing allegations of child abuse on to gardaí.

Today, the HSE published its report, an audit of all Catholic church dioceses' practices on child safety, which is based on a questionnaire.

The Bishops, however, collectively refused to answer a section of the questionnaire which requested detailed information on complaints and allegations, but which did not require individuals to be identified.

They said the secion 'presented insurmountable difficulties in relation to confidentiality'.

The HSE says the absence of this information means it is not possible to examine the application of the procedures in relevant cases.

A secondary report looks in particular at the diocese of Cloyne, which covers most of rural Co Cork, and at how that diocese dealt with specific complaints of child abuse.

Meanwhile, the Government has referred the issue of child abuse in the diocese of Cloyne to the Commission investigating abuse in the Dublin Archdiocese.

The decision was announced by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Barry Andrews, this afternoon.

Three weeks ago, an independent Catholic Church Board described Bishop John Magee's handling of clerical child sex abuse allegations in his diocese as inadequate and in some respects dangerious.

The Commission on the Dublin Archdiocese, chaired by Judge Yvonne Murphy, is due to complete its probe, stretching back over three decades, at the end of this month.