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We'll be first to wave goodbye to IMF -- Kenny

IRELAND aims to be the first bailed-out eurozone country to repay its debts and "wave goodbye to the IMF", the Taoiseach has announced.

In a buoyant address ahead of today's visit by former US President Bill Clinton, Enda Kenny hailed a "new age" of confidence in the country and predicted that we will begin selling our debt next year.

"Of all the countries in difficulty, Ireland leads by example," Mr Kenny said, claiming that the country is best placed to be the first eurozone member to "wave goodbye to the IMF".

The Taoiseach said that the "spirit, creativity and ingenuity" of Irish people will ensure that our "best days are ahead".

He added: "We're going to meet all our targets. So we don't contemplate default. We want to pay our way fully and completely and we will do that."

Up to 300 delegates from across the business, sporting and cultural world were due to attend the second day of the Global Irish Economic Forum in Dublin Castle this afternoon.

A number of initiatives have already been announced at the event which include:

•A group of 100 top-ranking business chiefs offering to sit on State boards for free.

•The establishment of a system of State recognition for those who make a "sustained and distinguished service to Ireland or Irish communities abroad".

•A register of "international advocates" that will offer the Government advice in areas such as foreign direct investment and tourism.

•A new social network -- www.worldirish.com -- which will link Irish people all across the world.

Barry O'Sullivan, senior vice-president at technology firm Cisco, said delegates are keen to get the economy back on course.



momentum

"There's huge excitement and interest. People are putting their hands up, saying I want to help, I need to understand a little bit more. I think we are going to get a lot of momentum this week with it."

Mr O'Sullivan is one of the 100 business leaders to offer his services to Government State boards. "We think it's an offer that can't be refused in terms of the pool of people we want to put together," he said.

The Government did, however, receive some criticism at the event, with the chairman of Goldman Sachs -- Peter Sutherland -- claiming the country had "deluded itself" in terms of its quality of third-level education.

hnews@herald.ie