The latest figures from the Central Bank show that lending to consumers continued to fall sharply last month. The figures also show a continuing drop in deposits.

Lending to consumers fell by 5.1% in the year to March, unchanged from the February figure. Mortgage lending was down 2.6% in March, while lending for other purposes fell by 13.4%.

This contrasts with figures from the European Central Bank, showing that in the Euro area as a whole lending to consumers was up by 3.4%, with lending for house purchase up by 4.5%.

Lending to businesses in Ireland showed a 1.4% annual fall, compared with a 1.6% drop in February. However, for the Euro area as a whole, lending to business increased by 5.7% in March, indicating the strength of the recovery in the wider European economy.

The figures also show that the drop in private sector deposits - which includes deposits from households, businesses, financial institutions and pension funds - continued to accelerate last month.

There was an annual fall of 10.1% in deposits in March, compared with a drop of 9.8% in February. Deposits have dropped by almost €14 billion in the last six months.