DUBLIN, Dec. 15 (Xinhua) -- Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny praised his fellow citizens on Sunday evening for their sacrifices during the three-year bailout, saying the 85-billion-euro (116 billion U.S. dollars) program has "affected every household" in the country.
"This was tough as wages and services were cut and new charges introduced. Many families have also had to face the devastating consequences of unemployment and emigration," Kenny said in a televised address to the nation.
On Sunday, Ireland wrapped up the bailout in a landmark for the eurozone's efforts to resolve its debt crisis. It becomes the first bailed-out country in the eurozone to officially exit its international financial rescue program.
"In March 2011, you gave Tanaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) Eamonn Gilmore and me a mandate to fix the public finances, and to get Ireland working again," he said.
"Two years ago, this month, I said that retrieving our economic sovereignty was an important step in the plan to deliver on that mandate. Since then, the people of Ireland and your government have worked hard to deliver that plan."
"This has required very difficult decisions at home and tough negotiations abroad," he added.
Kenny recalled that the immediate and urgent priority in 2011 had to be to "stabilize the economy by tackling the enormous budget deficit and the banking chaos that we inherited."
"We had to act decisively to show investors, and markets and our international partners that we were serious about fixing our economic problems," he said.
"I know that many people are struggling to make ends meet. I also know that for many of you, the recent improvements in the economic situation are not yet been felt in your daily lives."
"But it is now clear that your sacrifices are making a real difference," Kenny said.
He said his country is now moving in the right direction.
"Our economy is starting to recover," he said.
"While we still have far too many people out of work, jobs are being created. While borrowing is still too high, our public finances are moving towards a sustainable position. Internationally, our good name and our credibility have been restored," the Irish prime minister said.
Ireland was forced to turn to the EU and the IMF for the bailout in late 2010 after its banks collapsed and its property market bubble burst.
"Thanks to these efforts, Ireland will exit the EU-IMF bailout tonight. Tomorrow morning, Ireland will again stand as a full member of the eurozone with the same rules, obligations, supports and opportunities as all other member states. From tomorrow, we will access the financial markets in the same way as other countries," he said.
"This is an important step, but it is not an end in itself. Our lives won't change overnight," Kenny said.
He said the bailout exit "does send out a powerful signal internationally that Ireland is fighting back and 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."
Kenny said the clear and decisive path that has been followed for the past three years "puts us in a position where we can now be optimistic for our country's future."
"But the progress that we have made must not be put at risk. Now is not the time to change our course or direction."
PROMISING MORE JOBS
During the speech, Kenny pledged that his government will continue to pursue prudent budgetary policies and create more jobs.
"This week the government will publish a new medium-term economic plan that lays out the road ahead for our country. This plan will set out the steps that we intend to take to grow our economy between now and 2020. It will be a plan based on enterprise, not on speculation," Kenny said.
The upcoming economic plan will have two central pillars, according to Kenny.
"First, we must continue to pursue prudent budgetary policies. That's what convinces those who create jobs that Ireland is a place in which they can invest with confidence," he said.
"Everyone knows that you can't keep spending more than you are earning," he added.
"As of today, we have already completed over 90 percent of the necessary cuts and tax increases. As a result, we can now begin to reduce the national debt burden."
According to Kenny, by 2020 Ireland can eliminate government borrowing and cut public debt by a quarter, relative to the size of the economy.
He said the second pillar is to "get more of our people back to work," adding that the creation of jobs will be at the heart of the plan.
Three years ago, 1,600 jobs were being lost in this country every week. Now every week over 1,000 extra new jobs are being created, Kenny said.
He pledged to remove the barriers to new jobs in key sectors and reform the welfare system to provide supports and incentives for unemployed people to take up new jobs.
"By increasing total employment to over 2 million people by 2020, we can replace all of the jobs that were lost during the crisis with new jobs, offering many of those who have left Ireland the choice to return home," he said.
News Analysis: Outlook still cautious as Ireland announces bailout exit
DUBLIN, Dec. 14 (Xinhua) -- The government decision for Ireland to exit the bailout program on Sunday has been welcomed by politicians, experts and citizens in the country, but many still foresee austerity and challenges in the years ahead.
Ireland was the first of the crisis-hit economies in Europe to receive the EU-IMF bailout funds three years ago, totaling 67.5 billion euros (about 93 billion U.S. dollars). Full story
IMF releases last tranche of rescue funds for Ireland
WASHINGTON, Dec. 13 (Xinhua)-- The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Friday that it disbursed Ireland's last tranche of rescue fund, as the country would become the first eurozone member to successfully exit bailout from the European Union (EU) and the IMF.
The IMF said in a statement that it completed the twelfth and final review of Ireland's economic performance under a three-year program supported by the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) Friday, which enabled the release of 890 million U.S. dollars loan for the country. Full story