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Republic's economy best in the EU as Northern Ireland lags behind


The Republic's Minister for Finance Michael Noonan

The Republic's Minister for Finance Michael Noonan

The Republic's Minister for Finance Michael Noonan

Ireland's economy is continuing to record the fastest growth rates in the Europe Union.

The value of goods and services grew by 7% over the past year, making the Republic the best performing country in the bloc, just seven years after it collapsed in a devastating recession.

Ireland's Finance Minister Michael Noonan said the report showed the recovery was broadly based in the Republic, which is Northern Ireland's biggest export partner.

But a separate survey has shown Northern Ireland's economy is lagging behind its closest neighbour.

The EY Economic Eye said the economy here had grown by just 1.7% during 2015, compared with expansion of 5.8% in the Republic.

Michael Noonan said: "Yesterday's figures are once again very strong and provide further confirmation that economic recovery is now firmly embedded."

Official figures from the Central Statistics Office showed that gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 1.4% from July to September, taking the growth rate for the year to date, and also for the past 12 months, to 7%.

Output increased across most sectors, with manufacturing up 2.3%, construction up 1.2%, agriculture up 11.4%, and other services up 1.4%.

The report also recorded growth of 5.6% for Irish-owned businesses, calculated using gross national product.

But Mr Noonan cautioned that more work was needed to cement the recovery. "Strong economic growth has resulted in job creation and a sharp fall in unemployment, which has declined by over six percentage points since its peak to 8.9% at present," the minister added.

"The government has laid the foundations for this economic recovery, but there is more to be done. The government will continue to work so that the benefits of economic recovery are widely distributed, and that the unemployment rate is reduced further."

Mr Noonan also heralded the improvements in the economy across the board, with consumer spending now building - up 3.6% on the same time last year, reflecting more confidence - and exports up 12%.

"This data is mirrored in strong employment growth and tax receipts in the third quarter," Mr Noonan said.

The figures outstripped Irish government forecasts released with Budget 2016 for GDP growth of 6.2% this year, and an increase of 4.3% next year.

The report follows a fall in unemployment and a growing corporation tax take, despite continuing controversy over the tax arrangements in Ireland of big firms including Google.