UPDATE 1-In landmark for EU, Ireland leaves its bailout behind
DUBLIN, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Three years after going cap in hand to international lenders, Ireland has officially ended its bailout, providing a landmark for euro zone efforts to resolve its debt crisis, its finance minister said on Friday.
Ireland sought emergency help three years ago to keep its finances under control and has met the terms of the programme, cutting spending and raising taxes to bring down its budget deficit and rebalance the economy.
"This isn't the end of the road. This is a very significant milestone on the road," Noonan told a news conference. "But we must continue with the same types of policies."
Economic growth is slowly returning to Europe and Portugal aims to follow Ireland in completing its bailout next year, but deep problems remain particularly in Greece, stuck deep in depression.
Ireland's economy is forecast to grow by about 2 percent next year, unemployment has fallen below 13 percent, from a 15.1 percent peak in 2012, and Dublin is confident enough to do without a backup credit line as insurance against market shocks.
The country of 4.6 million is funded into 2015 thanks to debt issuance over the last 18 months and is showing the way to Greece, Portugal and Cyprus - which have also had sovereign bailouts - and Spain, which has had help for its banking system.
But after the struggle to convince financial markets that Ireland's economy is back on track, Prime Minister Enda Kenny's government now has to win over the Irish people.
While pledging to maintain fiscal discipline, Noonan said he will consider income tax cuts in the next two budgets to give the economy some support.
"If we can make changes which help the economy to grow better and create extra jobs, those are the kind of things we'll do," he said.