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Irish economy grew by 7.8% in 2015, best in EU again

[DUBLIN] Ireland's economy grew by 7.8 per cent last year, making it the fastest growing economy in the Europe Union for the second successive year after growth accelerated sharply in the final three months of the year.

Ireland has rebounded quickly from a 2010 international bailout and its economy benefited in 2015 from further falls in unemployment, a bumper year for retail sales and a weak euro that boosted the country's large export sector.

The economy expanded by 2.7 per cent on a quarterly basis from October to December, up from 1.5 per cent in the previous quarter, the Central Statistics Office said.

"Momentum actually strengthened in the final quarter. This is well ahead of all expecations. The consumer has been the most positive surprise feature of 2015," Goodbody Stockbrokers chief economist Dermot O'Leary said.

"We're not going to get the same growth in 2016, but certainly in the European context there is a lot of momentum coming into this year and we will well exceed the rest of europe."

The government had forecast that growth in the economy might exceed 7 per cent and the official forecast for 2016 of 4.3 per cent would likely see it retain the mantle of the best performer in Europe.

While sterling's recent depreciation against the euro may hit export growth this year - given Britain's trade clout with Ireland - economic data in the first two months have been broadly positive.

Thursday's figures showed personal consumption rose by over 3 per cent last year, indicating that the domestic economy can pick up any slack.

Robust gross domestic product (GDP) growth is only gradually filtering down to many people, however, and was one of the major factors behind voters rejecting the country's outgoing coalition at elections last month.

The election produced no clear outcome, making Ireland the latest euro zone state to face a prolonged political stalemate which senior ministers say could take weeks to break.


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