FINANCE minister and Leinster House veteran Michael Noonan (70) has been named European Finance Minister of the year 2014 by the Financial Times' influential magazine 'The Banker."
The gong came as Ireland restored its economic sovereignty as it exited the EU/IMF/ECB bailout at the end of last year.
It also came amid growing signs of a recovery in the Irish economy and a day after Ireland's first post-bailout bond market sale through which €3.75bn was raised.
The awards celebrate ministers who have managed to restore economic stability and in some cases growth to their economies following the financial crisis.
According to the magazine editor Brian Kaplen, the big dilemma for government leaders is whether they endure unpopularity for the long-term good of the country – or take the easy way out by doing what most people prefer, knowing they will probably be out of office by the time the economy deteriorates.
It added that the awards recognise the former approach.
"Ireland endured one of the worst recessions in Europe after the financial crisis, with high unemployment, higher taxes, spending cuts and a property bust," Mr Kaplen said today.
" It is doubtful whether many Irish voters feel particularly positive about their government.
"But The Banker also awarded Ireland’s finance minister Michael Noonan as the best in Europe for his efforts in bringing about Ireland’s exit from the International Monetary Fund/EU support programme and re-entering the capital markets.
"Most economists would concur with our decision," Mr Kaplen added.
By comparison, In 2010, the late Brian Lenihan was named worst European Finance Minister by the FT.
While our finances still face challenges, key areas like unemployment levels are falling also slowly and the economy is growing recent figures show.
Mr Noonan said he was happy to receive the award. “I am very pleased to have received this award. Ireland has made significant progress over the past twelve months and Ireland’s exit from the bailout was a highlight of 2013,” he said.
Fine Gael's Mr Noonan joined Dail Eireann in 1981 and has held a number of ministries since then including Health, Industry and Commerce and Justice.
The annual awards are regional and Mr Noonan joins luminaries like HE Sultan bin Saeed Nasser Al Mansouri of United Arab Emirates, Cesar Purisima of the Philippines and Luis Videgaray of Mexico.
Amara Konneh of Liberia was awarded finance minister for 2014 for Africa.
"We trust that in five years' time the economies in Liberia and Ireland will have improved enough such that even the locals think that we got it right," the magazine added.
The decision was taken after discussions among the magazine's editors and a survey of views among bankers and economists.
The Banker is one of the most-read monthly financial magazines in Europe.