Ireland will emerge from the clutches of its international debt masters today as it officially exits its strict bailout programme.
As the once financially-crippled country re-enters the money markets on its own two feet, Taoiseach Enda Kenny will hail the new era in a historic state of the nation address.
Mr Kenny, whose Government has led Ireland through almost three years of austerity as it fought to hit its tough bailout targets, will tonight thank the people for their sacrifices.
The country received the last tranche of funds from its European Union/International Monetary Fund €85bn loan on Friday - when Finance Minister Michael Noonan branded Irish citizens as the “real heroes and heroines” of the story.
But he warned a long road to recovery still lies ahead, as the Fine Gael-Labour coalition grapples to drive down soaring unemployment levels.
He described the economic meltdown as the greatest crisis the country has endured since the famine.
And he insisted the Government is committed to both getting people back to work and helping Irish emigrants return home.
Ireland’s finances, budgets and policies have been under intense scrutiny since the country agreed to a massive loan package in 2010.
Its debt masters, a troika of the IMF, the European Central Bank and European Commission, have carried out 12 intense reviews over the last three years and imposed a series of tough targets, all of which were met by the state.
The Irish public has endured four austerity budgets since the EU/IMF agreed to grant the bailout.
Over those three years, the Government has hiked taxes to the tune of €5.3bn and cut public spending by a cumulative €9.6bn.
The country’s unemployment rate had soared above 15% before the start of the bailout.
In the years before the banking crisis in 2008, Ireland enjoyed virtually full employment.
The country will become the first eurozone state to have successfully completed a strict bailout programme.
Little is expected to change come tomorrow morning, but Mr Noonan predicted a “change in perspective” in that Ireland will have control over its own destiny.