THE hard sacrifices of the Irish people are helping the country to bounce back, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has told a US audience.
"The hard sacrifices that are being made by the Irish people are delivering results. We have implemented €23bn of measures to cut government borrowing. That is over $7,000 (€5,400) for every man, woman and child in the country -- more than any other country in the world."
Citing an array of statistics -- from exports to foreign direct investment and gross domestic product -- Mr Kenny painted a picture of a country that is recovering quickly while admitting that costs remain too high in the public and private sectors and that the banking sector requires further work to stabilise.
The speech was a highlight of a two-day visit to Cleveland, which has close links to Mayo.
Mr Kenny also held meetings with business leaders and the Cleveland Clinic which is one of the best-rated hospitals in the United States. The clinic is the biggest employer in Cleveland and is expanding links with Dublin.
"Ireland has always hoped, always dreamed. But, what's more, it rolls up its sleeves, gets the head down, puts in the graft," Mr Kenny told around 600 guests who had gathered for the Mayo Society's annual ball.
While conceding that "there've been more than our fair share of dark clouds" he cheered what he saw as the silver lining that taught Irish people once again about the value of living in a republic: "This time of difficulty has brought out the best in us."
The message of economic growth was also hammered home in talks with a Cleveland debating club and at a tree planting ceremony in the city's Rockefeller Park where Mr Kenny arrived with dozens of security agents in a convoy of black cars surrounded by outriders.
Despite the trappings, he did not meet with either President Barack Obama or presidential candidate Mitt Romney who were both campaigning in Ohio over the weekend, and the visit made little impression in the local media. Ohio's governor was also absent from Mr Kenny's speeches in what was billed by his advisers as a visit to touch base with the US and repeat the message that Ireland remains open for business.
Mr Kenny was eager to praise the contribution of those who had left Mayo and other parts of Ireland over the years. "Our diaspora are our diamond men and women," he said.