Dec 16 - Ireland's exit from its EU-IMF bailout has restored national pride and set the stage for a swift recovery, according to Prime Minister Enda Kenny. But as Joanna Partridge reports Ireland's economic woes are far from over.
The first euro zone country to leave a bailout. Ireland exited its EU-IMF programme on Sunday - and that's restored national pride, says Prime Minister Enda Kenny. SOUNDBITE: Enda Kenny, Ireland's Prime Minister, saying (English): "The clear and decisive path that has been followed for the past three years puts us in a position where we can now be optimistic for our country's future. But the progress that we have made must not be put at risk. Now is not the time to change our course or direction. While the bailout is over, we must approach the future with that same clarity and decisiveness." Ireland now waves goodbye to three years of economic policy being dictated from abroad. But that's not to say no challenges remain. The government predicts GDP will grow by 2% next year. And while unemployment has fallen 2% from its 2012 peak, it still stands at 13%. Property prices have regained some ground, but concerns remain about the economic divide between Dublin and the countryside, the country's heavy reliance on exports and continued high levels of mortgage arrears. Do customers in a Dublin pub feel any better off than a year ago? SOUNDBITE: Pat Hooper, Retired art dealer, saying (English): "I don't think there's a holiday ahead, I think there's pretty stormy waters ahead, not because it's solely Ireland, but because it's European." SOUNDBITE: Paul Foley, Dublin businessman, saying (English): "I run a business myself in Dublin city centre and recently we've employed an extra two people so there's generally an upbeat attitude at the moment." SOUNDBITE: Brendan Hester, Retired teacher, saying (English): "Our future here lies in the skills, in the skill level, that we need to sort of push for high standards in education and so on." EU leaders have hailed Ireland's exit as a sign that the worst of the bloc's debt crisis is over. Daragh Maher is from HSBC. SOUNDBITE: Daragh Maher, FX Strategist, HSBC, saying (English): "It means we can stop having those conversations about is the euro going to break up, is austerity working, all these kind of ones that we talked about incessantly in 2012 haven't featured in 2013, and Ireland is part of the reason why, because it can be portrayed as a success story, austerity, exiting, all of that equation has now played out." Returning to market funding, the Irish government may find investors are tougher to deal with than international lenders. And it may also find it harder to convince citizens to keep faith with austerity measures. Ireland's made 90% of its required spending cuts and tax hikes, but still has its work cut out, to reduce its deficit from 7% this year to 3% by 2015. So they may be free of their bailout, but people are unlikely to notice any changes on the streets of Dublin.