The Catholic Church-backed watchdog on child sexual abuse has said the global leadership of the Norbertine order, of which the paedophile priest Brendan Smyth was a member, has failed to respond to its correspondence over the past three years.

Speaking after the publication of reviews of child safeguarding which found that three of four religious orders investigated have not really changed their performance in dealing with abuse, Teresa Devlin, chair of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland, said she will be writing to the Abbot Superior of the order again.

The NBSCCCI criticises the De La Salle Brothers, the Norbertine order of priests and the Nazareth Sisters for failing to put in place effective pastoral responses to people who have alleged they were abused by members of the congregations.

However, it says that in the past year the De La Salle Brothers and Nazareth Sisters have engaged more fully with the NBSCCCIto improve the situation.

The Congregation of Our Lady of Charity the Good Shepherd recently sent a member of staff to learn how to improve individual nuns' understanding of child safeguarding.

The reviews were carried out last year and in 2015 but publication was deferred because the orders concerned were being investigated by Northern Ireland's Historical Abuse Inquiry.

Its damning findings last January included that Cardinal Seán Brady was party to the effective silencing of an alleged victim of the paedophile Norbertine priest Brendan Smyth.

At the time, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh told Pope Francis that the HIA report showed that much remained to be done if the church in Ireland was to continue along the path of penitence, reparation, healing and renewal.

However, today's reports find little evidence of improvement in the Norbertine order or in the De La Salle Brothers or the Nazareth Sisters.

The three are criticised by the NBSCCCI for failing to put in place effective pastoral responses to people who alleged they had been abused psychologically, physically, sexually or through neglect by their priests and nuns.

Norbertines says response was 'inadequate'

In a statement, the Irish branch of the Norbertine order has said it is trying to meet its responsibilities towards remaining victims with what it calls "the limited resources" remaining within it.

According to today's report, two Norbertines, including Smyth, have been convicted of child sexual abuse but the number of allegations, suspicions and concerns concerning the order are unknown.

Numbers are published for the allegations relating to three other congregations at the centre of today's other reports.

The Norbertine order also says it will continue to meet survivors in a pastoral context should they so wish.

"We again unreservedly apologise most sincerely for the hurt and harm caused to these young people, while again also accepting that our management of the men concerned and the accusations presented to us were quite inadequate... " the statement continues.

It recalls that its Abbey at Kilnacrott, Co Cavan, which was the home of Smyth, was closed in August 2015 and that its only remaining house in Ireland is a retirement residence.

According to the statement, there are currently four Norbertine priests working separately in public ministry with other Catholic Church bodies.

Complainants urged to come forward

The reviewers say that, in the last year, the De La Salle Brothers and the Nazareth Sisters have engaged more fully with the board to improve the situation while the Good Shepherds recently sent a member of staff to learn how to improve individual nuns’ understanding of child safeguarding.

The NBSCCCI emphasises the importance of complainants coming forward if they have allegations of abuse to make which have not yet been reported.

It encourages that reports be made to the relevant diocese or religious order and also to the police and the statutory child protection authorities.

In a statement, the Sisters of Nazareth said they take heart from these remarks while reiterating their deepest regret to survivors for any occasion when the sisters' standard of care fell below what was expected of them.

They say it was always the desire of the order to provide a safe place for children.

The De La Salle Order also reiterates its unreserved apology for what it calls "historic cases of child abuse by some Brothers and for the failure of our Order when dealing with those so wrongfully hurt."

Its statement also says that much has been achieved in its child protection work since the review was done two years ago.

The Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd has also welcomed the report.

"The report has made four recommendations on how we can further improve our systems and we are in the process of implementing these."

The NBSSCI has encouraged anyone who has suffered abuse to contact the Catholic Church-funded Towards Healing counselling and support service for survivors of clerical, religious congregations' abuse, emphasising that it is "totally independent of the church."

Towards Healing: 1800 303 416 (Republic of Ireland) and 0800 096 3315 (Northern Ireland) Monday - Thursday 11am - 8pm and Friday 11am - 6pm