Noonan named Europe’s top finance minister

Michael Noonan has been named European Finance Minister of the Year 2014 just four years after the late Brian Lenihan was named Europe’s worst by the Financial Times.

The award was made by the influential magazine The Banker, which is owned by the Financial Times. The magazine praised Mr Noonan’s handling of the economy and his ability to successfully steer Ireland out of the troika bailout and back into the markets.

According to senior editor Philip Alexander, Mr Noonan “pushed a large chunk of debt out a very long way” by securing last February’s Anglo promissory note deal and his subsequent handling of the economy had managed to “establish trust with institutions and investors” as witnessed by this week’s raising of €3.5bn on the markets.

However, he said Ireland was still in a “very delicate situation” and recovery will depend on the fate of the wider European economy as Ireland needed to “grow its way out of its substantial debt”.

With the unemployment rate dropping to 12.4% for December and a return to economic growth in the third quarter of last year, the magazine said Mr Noonan had made “extraordinary progress” resulting in Ireland becoming the first eurozone periphery country to exit its IMF/EU support programme.

The Banker is one of the most widely read financial magazines in Europe and the award was made following a survey of editors, bankers and economists.

Last night Mr Noonan, 70, welcomed the gong saying: “I am pleased to have received this award. Ireland has made significant progress over the past 12 months and Ireland’s exit from the bailout was a highlight of 2013.”

It is the latest of a series of awards the country has received by international publications. Last month Ireland was named as the “best country for business” in rankings carried out by US financial magazine Forbes.

In late 2012 Taoiseach Enda Kenny was named European of the Year by a German magazine and he later appeared on the cover of Time.

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