Irish economy 'to return to growth'
Irish finance minister Brian Lenihan has claimed the country's economy will grow slightly this year as he unveiled 6 billion euro (£5 billion) savings in the most draconian budget in the history of the state.
"Our actions to stabilise the public finances have made progress," the minister said.
Mr Lenihan said Exchequer figures paint a picture of a country returning to growth after a prolonged and deep recession.
Opening his budget 2011 speech, he told the Irish Parliament that the economy, as measured by gross domestic product, would increase by an average of 2.75% by 2014.
Mr Lenihan said Ireland needed the help of the International Monetary Fund to break the vicious cycle that threatened the national finances and banking system.
"Without this support, there would have been serious doubts about the ability of the state to raise funds at reasonable cost to pay for key public services and to provide a functioning banking system to support economic activity," he said. "That is the reality."
Setting out the many dramatic reforms facing Irish workers, families and the unemployed, the minister said the old age state pension would not be touched, though he did warn of further social welfare cuts over the next few years.
The Budget includes plans to make a 10 euro (£6.40) reduction in the lower and higher child benefit rates.
Households receiving a fuel allowance payment will get 40 euro (£34) to help fight the harsh weather conditions, at a cost of 14 million euro (£12 million).
On government pay, Mr Lenihan said Taoiseach Brian Cowen, his deputy Mary Coughlan and other government ministers will see their salaries cut as part of the Budget measures.