Dublin urges new deal on bank debt as it exits bailout
The Republic of Ireland will continue to fight European finance chiefs for a deal on its legacy bank debt, the country's finance minister has said.
As the once financially crippled nation marked its exit from the EU/IMF €85bn (£71.6bn) loan programme, Michael Noonan said it will still pursue a restructuring of the lenders' debt.
The minister praised the Irish people for their sacrifices.
"Everybody owes a debt of gratitude to all those Irish men and women who have made such sacrifices to get us out of the greatest crisis that this country has experienced since the famine," Mr Noonan said.
"It wasn't easy for anybody. I would say that the Government is committed now that this will never happen again and will take the measures necessary to ensure it will never happen again.
"The Government is committed as well to creating jobs, getting people back to work, getting our emigrants to come back home so that families can be reunited again."
Ireland's finances, budgets and policies have been under intense scrutiny since the country agreed to a massive loan package in 2010.
Its debt masters, a Troika of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Central Bank and European Commission, have carried out 12 intense reviews over the last three years and imposed a series of tough targets, all of which were met by the Irish State.
The Irish public has endured four austerity budgets since the EU/IMF agreed to grant the bailout. Over those three years, the Government has hiked taxes to the tune of €5.3bn (£4.5bn) and cut public spending by a cumulative €9.6bn (£8.1bn).
The country's unemployment rate had soared above 15% before the start of the bailout.
In the years before the banking crisis in 2008, Ireland enjoyed virtually full employment.
Mr Noonan said Ireland's current debt level of 124% of gross domestic product (GDP) is well above the European average of 94%.
He said the Government planned to run a structural surplus in 2014, which turns debt trajectory downwards.
The Government will also use the proceeds of the eventual sale of its shares in the banks to drive the debt down further.
The minister warned that Ireland must not "go mad" as it shakes off the tight clutches of its debt masters the Troika.
He echoed public expenditure minister Brendan Howlin, who insisted the nation must remain prudent.
EU President Jose Manuel Barroso congratulated the Irish Government and the Irish people for the achievement. "Thanks to their efforts and sacrifices, Ireland will now be able to finance itself through its own efforts," Mr Barroso said. "Today's result would not have been possible without the solidarity and financial support of the other EU member states."