An economist has told a conference in Dublin that the Irish economy could show zero or even negative growth this year.

Dr Alan Ahearne of NUI Galway was speaking at the annual investment conference of the Irish Association of Pension Funds.

He said there was very little to justify forecasts of any growth in the economy this year, adding that a housing slump would wipe 4% off the annual growth rate.

Dr Ahearne said spending on the National Development Plan would compensate for only 0.5% of this.

The economist also claimed that official figures had underestimated the fall in house prices.

He estimated a fall of 10-15% last year, with a similar drop this year, and added that there was little hope of an interest rate cut from the ECB.

On currency movements, Dr Ahearne said Irish exporters should be looking to Asian countries as the current low value of their currencies was unsustainable, and the US dollar was likely to fall further.