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Noonan gets behind Joe's Fiver Friday

FINANCE Minister Michael Noonan has echoed broadcaster Joe Duffy's call for people to spend more and shop local.

"Fiver Friday" is gaining momentum with the minister saying people need to loosen their wallets in order to boost the economy.

Despite the recession, Irish people are sitting on an astonishing €134bn in savings.

Mr Noonan has now said it is time to return to normal spending habits.

"What we really need is for people to go into the shops and start buying again,'' said the Finance Minister.

He pointed to consumer and tourist spending as a means of helping escape the crisis.

The economy is showing the strongest growth since the end of 2007, as tentative signs of a recovery emerge on the back of exports.

New CSO figures show the economy actually grew in 2010, contrary to earlier expectations, with growth up 1.3pc in the first quarter of this year.

And almost half of people said they felt more optimistic about the prospect of economic recovery under the new Government, a poll showed.

Mr Noonan insisted recovery could come on the back of changed consumer sentiment.

"If that starts, with tourists visiting our shores stimulating the retail side, and is followed by our own ordinary citizens going about their shopping and beginning to spend again, then we begin to lift out of the crisis," he said.

Since taking office, the Fine Gael-Labour government has tried various measures to lure consumers back into their usual spending patterns, including slashing VAT rates as part of the jobs stimulus plan.

But he said it was too early to say whether these measures had worked.

Mr Noonan, like other ministers, is hoping the international markets will start to see Ireland in a different light from Greece, which got initial approval for a second EU/IMF bailout last night.

Meanwhile next Friday has been set for "Fiver Friday" when listeners of Joe Duffy's Liveline programme are being asked to boost retail sales by spending an extra €5 in their local community.