THE worst of the economic crisis may be over, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.
In some of his most upbeat comments to date, Mr Kenny said: "I believe that in 2012 we saw the passing of possibly the worst of the economic crisis - the fear that the euro itself might not survive was confronted and dispelled emphatically and we now move onto the challenges of the recovery of Europe."
Mr Kenny also told the small number of MEPs in attendance that Ireland is determined to exit the bailout by the end of the year, and that the Government wants agreement on the EU budget before its six-month presidency ends.
He also said the recent flag protests and rioting in Belfast would not derail the peace process.
"The last weeks have seen attempts by some to threaten the very hard-won peace," Mr Kenny said.
"But be assured small groups of disparate, unrepresentative, trouble-makers will never succeed in bringing Northern Ireland and its peoples back to that dark place."