Irish pubs are calling for government action to offset a decline in the pub trade after 4,800 jobs were lost in the last 12 months.

The Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) revealed this week that around 80% of the 5,000 rural pub licensees it represents saw a fall in profits of at least 10% this summer. Half of members have had to let staff go.

Another 43% of those surveyed have had to reduce their opening hours to reflect a slowdown in business, said the trade body.

"We knew the pub industry was under pressure and the research has verified this," said Val Hanley, president of the VFI.

"In fact, it is worse than we thought as over 4,800 jobs have gone in the last twelve months, which has a huge financial cost to the state as well as a human cost. Rural pubs seem to be suffering the most and those pubs which relied on tourism trade are also well down."

He added: "The industry is facing another very difficult few months which could decimate the sector and lead to more closures and job losses."

The VFI is calling on the Irish Government to reduce the VAT rates from 21.5% to 15% and from 13.5% to 10%, appoint an ombudsman to get banks lending to pubs, a reduction in local authority commercial and water rates and to ensure there is no reduction in the drink drive limit.

Padraig Cribben, CEO of the VFI, said: "We are now calling on the government to help us save the pub trade in Ireland and to prevent more closures and job losses.

"Water and commercial rates are also way too high in this country and they are crippling publicans. We would also strongly urge the Minister for Transport not to reduce the blood alcohol levels for drivers as this will have no impact on road fatalities and will directly lead to pub closures and job losses."