Ireland’s leader hails the end of €85bn bailout

IRELAND’S exit from its international bailout has restored national pride and set the stage for a swift recovery, Prime Minister Enda Kenny said in a televised address yesterday to mark the end of three years of economic policy dictated from abroad.

The first Eurozone country to leave a bailout, Ireland’s exit has been hailed by EU leaders as a sign the worst of the continent’s debt crisis is over.

Kenny forecast growth could allow the national debt to be cut by a quarter in seven years.

“Our lives won’t change overnight. But it does send out a powerful signal internationally, that Ireland is fighting back,” Kenny said. “Your patience and resilience have restored our national pride.”

Three years after a property crash forced the government to go cap in hand to international lenders to avert bankruptcy, Ireland officially left its €85bn (£71.6bn) bailout from the EU and International Monetary Fund at midnight.

Unemployment has fallen below 13 per cent, from a 15.1 per cent peak in 2012, and property prices have started to rebound, prompting the government to forecast GDP growth will grow two per cent next year.

Concerns remain, with a sharp divide between capital and countryside, a heavy reliance on exports and stubbornly high levels of mortgage arrears.

“I know that, for many of you, the recent improvements in the economic situation are not yet being felt in your daily lives,” Kenny said. “But it is now clear that your sacrifices are making a real difference... Our economy is starting to recover.”

The government expects to return total employment to 2m of a population of 4.6m from 1.9m today, Kenny said.

Debt as a proportion of economic output will fall by a quarter from an expected peak of 124 per cent this year, he added.