CSO: Economy enjoyed strong 2016 before dipping at start of this year

Ireland's economy grew strongly last year - but contracted at the start of 2017, official figures have shown.

The Central Statistics Office (CSO), which has begun using new techniques to more accurately value business performance, said that traditional yardsticks of measurement - gross domestic product - showed the value of goods and services grew by 5.1% in 2016.

In the first three months of this year, this standard assessment showed the economy shrank by 2.6% when compared to a strong performance at the end of last year.

The CSO also said that when gross national product numbers are examined, which discount the effects of multinationals, the economy shrank by 7.1% in the first quarter.

Despite the short-term dip, Paschal Donohoe, Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, said the numbers were very positive.

The Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe, said: "Today’s figures are very positive showing that the Irish economy grew by 5.1% in GDP terms last year. This confirms that Ireland was the fastest growing economy in the European Union in 2016.

"Today’s data also provide clear evidence of continued momentum in the economy this year with annual GDP growth of 6.1% recorded in the first quarter.

"These figures are mirrored in strong employment growth, as well as tax receipts to end-June which increased by 4% over the same period last year."

The CSO has also published an alternative measure of economic activity in Ireland, modified Gross National Income (GNI).

GNI is a measure of Irish economic activity that was recommended by the Economic Statistics Review Group, and the Government claim it is a better measure of domestic economic trends as it excludes:

* Profits of re-domiciled companies;

* Depreciation on R&D-related intellectual property imports;

* Depreciation on aircraft leasing.

Today's figures show that GNI is estimated at €189.2bn last year.

Mr Donohoe said: "The (General Government) debt to GNI ratio was 106% in 2016. The still elevated levels of debt in the Irish economy and the increasingly uncertain external environment underlines the importance of sensible management of the public finances.

"That is what the Summer Economic Statement sets out and what the Government will continue to do."

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