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'Light at the end of economic black hole'

WE'RE halfway there and no longer living on a prayer.

That was the upbeat message from Finance Minister Michael Noonan, reporting that Ireland is well ahead of deficit targets.

Exchequer figures show that tax intake ran ahead of expectation last year and the Government is more than halfway towards meeting the 2013 EU/IMF budget targets.

The Department of Finance is bound by the Troika to reduce the national deficit to 7.5pc by the end of the year.


The target for 2012 was 8.6pc but Mr Noonan said: "The budget deficit is now going to come in comfortably below 8pc, probably 7.9pc or 7.8pc realistically.

"So our 2013 budget position is comfortable so barring war or pestilence we should be in a position to meet our target."

And speaking today the junior minister at the department, Brian Hayes, said the economy is finally showing signs of life.

"There is clear momentum for the Irish economy now. Retailers had a good Christmas.

"We go into 2013 in a strong position. We have met our targets," he said.

However, he admitted: "We're not getting carried away with ourselves here.

"We are facing a difficult budget situation."

Latest figures reveal a deficit of €14.9bn -- but that's €10bn less than the €24.9billion financial black hole of a year ago in December 2011.

And Minister Noonan said that general confidence in the economy is on the up with an increase in Christmas sales.

He said that the main strategy of the last two Budgets was not to raise income tax, and that this was a driving factor behind improved consumer sentiment this Christmas.

The most notable positive return was a jump by almost 30pc in tax revenues in December compared to the same month a year earlier.