The lives of Irish people will not change overnight as the once financially-crippled country exits its international bailout, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has warned.
In a televised address to the nation, the Taoiseach acknowledged that despite recent economic improvements, many are yet to feel the benefits.
But as Ireland officially emerges from its 85bn bailout programme tonight, he thanked the public and insisted their sacrifices are beginning to make a difference.
“This is an important step but it is not an end in itself. Our lives won’t change overnight,” Mr Kenny said.
“But it does send out a powerful signal internationally, that Ireland is fighting back, that the spirit of our people is as strong as ever. Your patience and resilience have restored our national pride and empowered us to face the challenges that remain.”
In his third State of the Nation address since taking office in 2011, the Taoiseach insisted Ireland is now moving in the right direction and its economy is starting to recover.
The country officially emerges from the clutches of its EU/IMF debt masters tonight as the first Eurozone state to have successfully completed a strict bailout programme.
It will re-enter the money markets on its own two feet tomorrow morning.
This means it will stand as a full member of the Eurozone and be able to access the markets in the same way as other countries – with the same rules, obligations and supports.
The Taoiseach admitted this may not have an immediate impact on the public and vital job creation.
And as the Government prepares to publish a new medium term economic plan on how to grow the economy between now and 2020, he warned budgetary policies must continue to be prudent.
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.
Tonight, Mr Kenny said the Government’s plan for the future will be built on enterprise and not speculation.
He pledged to increase total employment to over 2 million people by 2020, which he said will replace all of the jobs that were lost during the crisis.
“Throughout our history, the Irish people have always shown that nothing is impossible for us to achieve, when we really apply ourselves to a challenge or cause,” he said.
“Believe me, Government will work with you to put in place the foundations for a secure and prosperous future for you and the next generation.
“I thank you for the part that you have played in Ireland’s recovery to date. My commitment to you and to your families is that for the remainder of its term, this government will work, might and mane, to finish the job that you entrusted to us.”
Mr Kenny gave a similar televised address on state broadcaster RTE for the first time in December 2011, on the eve of the announcement of a crippling austerity budget, when he warned Ireland remained in crisis.
Charles J Haughey made a similar appeal in 1980 when he claimed the country was living beyond its means, and before him, taoisigh Jack Lynch and Garrett Fitzgerald delivered their own addresses.
Mr Kenny made a second televised address in May 2012 when he urged the public to vote for Ireland to sign a European fiscal treaty.