The Irish banks' reliance on emergency funds from the European Central Bank fell in March, with outstanding loans down to €53.1 billion from €61.9 billion in February.

This is according to the latest figures from the Central Bank today.

The banks here remain heavily dependent on emergency funding to run day-to-day operations.

But they have trimmed that reliance from a high of €187 billion in February 2011 by shrinking balance sheets and making a tentative return to capital markets.