Mortgage rates in Ireland remain the second highest in the euro zone, according to the latest figures from the Central Bank.

The average mortgage rate in Ireland is around 1.5% above the EU average - it stands at 1.33% in the EU and 2.79% in Ireland.

"It might not sound like a large amount, but it you take, for example, a €250,000 mortgage being repaid over 30 years, which would be fairly standard for first time buyers in Ireland, you'd be looking at paying €183 more each month, or around €2,000 more a year," explained Daragh Cassidy of price comparison website

"That's a lot of money, and it's money that people could be using on childcare, healthcare, their pensions or just savings in general."

Why do mortgage interest rates remain stubbornly high?

There are three reasons why mortgage rates are high here, according to Mr Cassidy.

Firstly there is a lack of competition in the Irish market as it remains concentrated in the hands of a few lenders. Competition has improved in recent times with the arrival of Avant Money into the markets, but it is still below where it used to be.

The second reason is about home repossession and the inability of banks to back a property if the loan has gone bad. In Ireland if a loan isn't being repaid, it can be quite difficult for a lender for both legal and political reasons to take back a property.

"While as a society we agree that this is the right approach to take, it's not the approach that is taken in the rest of Europe," Mr Cassidy said. "It does contribute somewhat to higher rates."

Another reason why rates are high is the amount of capital the banks are required to hold. Irish banks have to hold about three to four times the amount that banks elsewhere are required to hold.

No decision has yet been taken on the future of Ulster Banks operations here, but a strategic review by its parent company NatWest is taking place. The possible withdrawal of Ulster Bank would reduce competition and could lead to higher interest rates.

"If they do, I would expect to see further upward pressure on rates - which is the last thing we need seeing as they're currently the second highest in the EU right now," Mr Cassidy said.