The Irish economy has passed peak growth and is entering a phase of calmer expansion.

Austin Hughes, chief economist with KBC Bank Ireland, described the growth figures for 2018 – published yesterday – as reflective of an economy that's "still healthy, but no longer hot."

"It isn't a bad thing. We're coming to a pace of growth that's calm, but not cool by any sense," the economist said.

The Irish economy has had a tenuous relationship in recent years with the traditional measure of economic growth – Gross Domestic Product, or GDP.

In the past, the measure has contributed to a phenomenon that was dubbed "leprechaun economics" where the underlying figure has been distorted by the activities of multinationals that operate here.

According to the GDP measure, the economy here grew at a pace of 6.7% last year, which is more than three times the average for the euro zone.

"That probably overstates what's happening. There isn't a single summary measure of what's going on in the economy here. Our estimates put growth running at about 4% to 4.5%, which is very solid," Austin Hughes said.

The figures pointed to a slowdown in the pace of growth in the final three months of last year.

"It's important to emphasise that it's still a healthy pace of growth. If you look at the details, you've a slightly slower pace of growth in consumer spending. Consumers are becoming a little more cautious because of Brexit.

"There was a slightly surprising drop in the numbers in construction relating to a big fall off in terms of spending on home improvements," he explained.

Austin Hughes said Brexit was still a factor for the Irish economy and it would likely become increasingly influential.

"It hasn't brought the economy to a stop, but we're seeing a calmer element. It's a picture of an economy that's calming rather than one that's going cold."

A separate set of figures from the CSO pointed to a further slowdown in property prices here.

"There are a few elements to the property prices. Supply is still inadequate at 18,000 new builds last year, but it's still four times what we built three or four years ago," Austin Hughes said. 

"There isn't a sense that people are in a panic to buy. Demand has been curbed because of affordability.

"That's aggravated by the Central Bank rules that are really biting in the Dublin area. There is a bit of caution caused by Brexit but that's not a bad thing for the economy," he added.