Less than one-third of the collapse in oil prices recently has been passed on to Irish motorists, a Sunday Tribune survey has revealed.

From the dizzying heights of more than $130 last year, the price of a barrel of oil stood at just $44 last week. This represents a third of its previous value.

Petrol prices in Ireland have decreased as well, but the falls have been in the order of just 30% and fuel costs are now starting to creep up again.

A survey of five major petrol stations across Ireland by the Sunday Tribune has revealed a clear pattern of fuel prices following the decline of oil, but only just.

Petrol began 2008 retailing at around €1.16.9 per litre, according to figures, before creeping up to an all-time high of nearly €1.30 last summer.

With the collapse in the price of oil, the price of petrol at the pump dropped to below €1 a litre at Christmas but has already begun to show signs of rising.

Nationally, the average price of a litre of oil now stands at around €1.01.4, according to AA Ireland, and further increases are expected as the value of oil rallies from record lows of just $34.

Fine Gael TD Michael Noonan said: "We are always told that there is a lead-in time when it comes to reductions of petrol prices, but even taking that into account, it is not happening quickly enough. Oil prices very quickly increase when there is unrest in the Middle East or some similar world event.

"There would also appear to be cases of price-fixing regionally, even if there isn't nationally and the Competition Authority needs to look at this matter.

"We carried out a survey of petrol prices before Christmas around Limerick city and its suburbs, which forced prices to drop temporarily.

"The prices are drifting back up again and the pressure needs to be kept up by the various state agencies, which are employed to do that job.

"It is not enough for ministers like Mary Coughlan to say shop around when the cheaper petrol is available at the other end of the country."

Jonathan Dean, who runs pumps.ie, an online service for keeping track of petrol prices said: "For the most part we get a good deal on petrol prices. You have to remember that for every euro you spend on petrol, the government take about 65 or 66 cents (50 cent levy, and 21 per cent VAT).

"The other 35 cents has to cover the price of the oil, the refining, the delivery and the petrol station's margin... this is why fuel prices have not dropped by 70% along with the drop in the price of oil.

"The base cost of petrol has dropped in line with oil prices, but the massive government take has stayed the same. And so the overall petrol price has not dropped in line with oil prices.

"If you think about it, a litre of water will generally cost you more than a litre of petrol and it is only taxed at 21%.

"Most station owners make a very low margin on each litre of fuel sold, maybe 3c or 4c per litre, depending on where they are. That margin has to cover the running costs of the station, staff, electricity, etc, so they don't really make money on the fuel.

"They make much more money on the chocolate bar and newspaper you buy when you go into the shop to pay. That is why we have practically no stations that only sell fuel any more. They all have a shop to cover their costs."

If motorists still feel they are being ripped off, pumps.ie offers a daily updated map of Ireland showing where the cheapest petrol is available and in which county.

The current bargain price is 94.9c a litre with the only proviso being that the consumer will have to drive to the Millbridge Service Station in Co Donegal to take advantage.