Economy to hit pre-crisis peak by the end of 2015
The economy is set to swell to its pre-crisis peak this year.
New figures show economic growth in 2014 was the fastest in seven years, outstripping any other European country and expanding at almost five times the Eurozone average.
Experts now predict the economy will be bigger by the end of this year than it was in the peak of the boom, but will be much more evenly balanced than the construction-focused Celtic Tiger era.
Many major European countries have already returned to pre-crisis levels with Britain passing the barrier last year. Ireland's population has been growing since 2007 which means that economic output per person will be slower to return to pre-crisis levels.
The economy grew by 4.8pc last year, according to the first estimate of 2014 growth from the Central Statistics Office (CSO). That compares with 0.9pc in the Eurozone and 1.3pc in the European Union (EU) as a whole.
Economists hailed the data as showing the strength of the recovery, with one predicting Ireland will top the Eurozone growth league table again this year.
"You're probably going to see the pre-crisis peak being reached or being surpassed," said Philip O'Sullivan, economist with specialist bank Investec.
But business lobby group Ibec pointed out that household and company wealth is still lower than pre-2007 levels, and that many households still do not feel the effects of the recovery.
While the economy continues to grow strongly, separate figures released yesterday show deflation remains a worry after consumer prices fell for the third month in a row.
But the strong recovery is staving off concerns that Ireland will fall into a deflationary spiral, which could dent the economy and lead to a prolonged period of low prices.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan said economic growth is now broadly balanced.
"The turnaround that we are seeing in the Irish economy is a direct consequence of the policies pursued by this Government and the sacrifices made by the Irish people."