Irish retailers have hit out at claims they are profiteering after new data showed the Republic of Ireland to be the second most expensive EU state in which to buy food.

Eurostat data has revealed that the Irish pay 25% more for food and non-alcoholic drink than the average across the other 26 EU member states, with only Denmark more pricey.

Irish alcohol prices are the highest in the EU - 81% above the average and almost 30% higher than in the UK.

The news has prompted calls from opposition politicians for government action. "It is obvious the Irish consumer is being ripped off," said the Labour Party's consumer affairs spokeswoman, Kathleen Lynch:

The abolition of the groceries order and the establishment of the National Consumer Agency were supposed to lower prices, she said, but the opposite was happening. "We need government action to tackle this issue, and urgently."

But Retail Ireland dismissed claims of profiteering. "The reality is that Ireland is a very expensive place to do business," said director Torlach Denihan. "It is estimated that operating a retail outlet here costs some 20% more than in the UK, with higher waste charges, electricity and labour costs," he said.