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Ireland

Ireland exits financial bailout program

Ireland has become the first of the eurozone bailout countries to complete its rescue program. The country has decided to do without a precautionary line of credit from its EU partners.

Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Enda Kenny said in a national televised address to mark the official end of Ireland's bailout Sunday that the country was moving in "the right direction and the economy is starting to recover." Kenny called the exit "an important step" but "not an end in itself."

The government is to announce this week a new medium-term economic plan for the period to 2020 based on enterprise, "not on speculation," Kenny said, to ensure that "never again will Ireland's stability be threatened by speculation and greed."

The plan will focus on budgetary policies that encourage job creation and investment, Kenny said. He warned that the banking system must "become a contributor to the economy, rather than a huge drain on it."

Kenny thanked the Irish people for their patience and resilience throughout the three years of the bailout. He acknowledged the "devastating consequences of unemployment and emigration" faced by many families.

Ireland accepted a bailout in 2010 when its banking and economic crises threatened to destabilize the euro currency. The bailout included loans from the European Union and member states amounting to 45 billion euros (60 billion dollars), as well as a 22.5-billion-euro line of credit with the IMF.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved the 12th and last review of Ireland's progress on Friday, allowing a final 890-million-euro payout. To mark the end of the bailout programme, the IMF's managing director Christine Lagarde praised Ireland's "steadfast policy implementation" but she warned of "significant economic challenges" ahead.

"Unemployment is too high, public debt sustainability remains fragile, and heavy private sector debts and banks' slow progress in resolving non-performing loans weigh on domestic demand," Lagarde said in a statement.

jm/lw (AFP, dpa)