Ireland's Catholic dioceses notified 56 allegations of clerical child abuse to the church's independent board that monitors child protection last year.

The first annual report from the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church says that some allegations amounted to little more than suspicion with no evidence.

It highlighted one case where neither the alleged victim nor perpetrator could be identified by the person making the complaint.

Last year, 26 dioceses in Ireland notified the board of 56 allegations of abuse, 21 involving priests who have since died.

But the board says that its rigorous investigations of Cloyne Diocese undermined the accuracy of this figure.

A database of new allegations is to be compiled from now on with data from diocese and congregations being gathered every two months by the board.

However, it accepts that from the information it has received, all dioceses are now following appropriate procedures on referring new allegations to statutory authorities.

This annual report is the first from the board, which was established almost three years ago.

Chairperson of the board Ian Elliot has said he wants to see a greater culture of responsibility within church institutions.

The board has also published new guidelines on the protection of children within the Catholic Church.

The new standards lay out direction on devising a written policy on the protection of children, procedures on how to respond to allegations and suspicions.

Mr Elliott says the document should be used by all church organisations.

He says the protection of children remains paramount and calls on the church to adopt a more open and transparent approach to its work regarding child protection.

A copy of the new guidelines is to be circulated to every diocese in the country.