By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — In welcome news for the Irish government as it prepares for its summer break, new figures show the annual inflation rate eased to 4.4 percent in June, from 4.7 percent in May.
Higher energy costs and mortgages were among the principal factors that pushed up prices in the month.
Central Statistics Office figures show that consumer prices rose by 0.2 percent in the month, compared to the increase of 0.5 percent in June last year.
The most significant increases during June were for housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels which all went up 0.8 percent.
During the month, the cost of food, recreation and culture and restaurants and pubs all increased by 0.3 percent.
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Year-on-year, services have gone up 10.4 percent, health, 10.2 percent and education 9.7 percent.
The inflation figures were released as it emerged that the cost of visiting a casualty ward in a hospital without a letter from a doctor is to rise by 26 percent to euro 40 beginning next month.
Government Chief Whip Mary Hanafin described the monthly fall as representing a “marked decline” for the first five months of the year and said it was 0.9 percent lower than for the corresponding period last year.
“This is a particularly positive development in the context of the need to continue to sustain competitiveness against a background of the global economic downturn.”
However, Fine Gael spokesman Richard Bruton criticized what he described as government complacency on rising prices.
“Inflation is running at more than twice that of our main markets,” he said. “Repeated promises to tackle these problems are wearing thin.”
The EU Harmonized Index of Consumer Prices also rose by 0.2 percent in the month, and was 4.5 percent higher than June last year. This compares with an annual rate of 5 percent in May.
Meanwhile, the cost of buying a home has taken off again this year with the rise of 5.6 percent in the first six months already more than the increase for the whole of last year, according to the latest Permanent TSB house price index.
Last year, prices went up by 4.8 percent in the first six months but dropped by 0.4 in the second half of the year.
The surge in prices again this year follows changes in the December budget that brought investors back into the market and saw a rise in purchases by first-time buyers.
The index, compiled with the Economic and Social Research Institute, shows Dublin house prices rose by 6.8 percent compared to an increase in 5.2 percent in the rest of the country.
The average price being paid by Dubliners is now euro 251,241, while houses in the rest of the country cost euro 168,583.
The biggest monthly increase this year was in April, when prices went jumped by 2.9 percent, up from 1.8 in March.
In May and June, the monthly increase levelled back to 0.5 percent.