More than 700 chefs from outside the European Union have been given work permits for Ireland over the past two-and-a-half years, according to figures obtained by RTÉ News.

However, the Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) said that the shortage in chefs here has reached "crisis point".

The figures also show that 564 permits have been refused.

Under new regulations that came into effect last March, 610 chefs from outside the EU will be allowed into Ireland.

The RAI has called on the Government to fast track work permits.

It says that some restaurants are being forced to close on a Monday and Tuesday due to the shortage.

The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation says a review is currently under way and would be completed by the end of this month.

It said applications were refused for a number of reasons, including failing to provide the necessary supporting documentation.