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Ireland Logs Strongest Growth In EU In 2014

Ireland's economy grew for a second consecutive year in 2014 and at the fastest pace since 2007, marking the strongest growth in the EU, led by robust investments, exports and domestic demand.

Gross domestic product rose 4.8 percent in 2014 after a 0.8 percent gain in the previous year. In 2012, the economy contracted 0.3 percent. The country exited an EU/IMF bailout program in late 2013.

"This confirms that Ireland had the fastest-growing economy in the EU in 2014," Finance Minister Michael Noonan said. "Today's numbers are consistent with the Budget day GDP forecast of 3.9 percent for 2015."

In the fourth quarter, the Irish economy grew 4.1 percent year-on-year, same as in the previous three months. Sequentially, the GDP increased 0.2 percent in the December quarter after a 0.4 percent gain in the three months to September.

The Gross National Product grew 5.2 percent in 2014 versus 3.3 percent in 2013. In the fourth quarter, the GNP rose 6.3 percent after increasing 3.1 percent in the previous three months. Quarter-on-quarter, the GNP grew 2.3 percent, which was faster than 1.4 percent in the three months to September.

The ministry will publish its updated forecasts in the Spring Economic Statement due mid-April.

"Ireland has benefited from its close trading ties with the US and UK, two of the strongest performers on the world stage in the past twelve months. Competitiveness gains made against the rest of Euroland in recent years have also helped," Alan McQuaid, economist at Merrion Stockbrokers, said.

"But the most encouraging aspect is the pick-up in domestic demand, which augurs well for 2015. The sharp fall in the euro will be a huge plus for Ireland too."

Elsewhere, the country's debt management agency NTMA issued a 30-year bond at a record low interest rate of 1.31 percent, which Noonan said was evidence of the positive market reaction to Ireland's sustained growth.

Noonan also said that Ireland will make early repayment of its final $5.5 billion of IMF loans.

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