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Taoiseach Enda Kenny rules out second Irish bailout but admits challenges ahead

IRELAND will not require a second bailout to follow the €67.5bn package agreed with the EU and IMF in 2010, the country's Prime Minister Enda Kenny said today.

Speaking during a visit to London, the Taoiseach acknowledged that his country faced "very significant economic challenges" but insisted that it was starting to see "positive results" from the austerity programme introduced in the wake of the financial crisis.

Key to the restoration of financial stability will be a "comprehensive solution" to the problems facing the euro, said Mr Kenny.

He was unable to say whether a referendum will be required in Ireland on the inter-governmental pact on new fiscal disciplines for the eurozone, currently being drawn up between 26 EU states after Britain declined to get involved.

A decision on a referendum will be made after advice is received from Ireland's Attorney General on whether the final text of the agreement is consistent with the constitution, he said.

Speaking at Thomson Reuters in London's Canary Wharf ahead of talks with Prime Minister David Cameron in Downing Street, Mr Kenny acknowledged that "we are not yet at a point where market confidence in the euro has been restored".

"We must ensure that more binding, durable and enforceable fiscal rules go hand-in-hand with funding certainty for countries pursuing sound and sustainable economic policies," said the Taoiseach.

"We need to keep pushing forward towards a comprehensive solution to the challenges of the eurozone.

"And beyond that, we absolutely must start creating the conditions and environment for a return to economic growth and job creation across the Union.

"Public confidence in, and support for, the euro - and indeed the European Union - will ultimately be determined by how well we deliver on growth and jobs, rather than on institutional wrangling and complex legal or technical negotiations.

"That must remain the ultimate focus - more growth, more jobs, more prosperity."

Asked after his speech whether Ireland might be forced to seek a second bailout, Mr Kenny responded: "We are meeting all of the targets and all the commitments.

"My genuine belief is that if we can get through the eurozone crisis from a political point of view, we've got a lot of engines that can drive our economy, that will restore confidence and get us moving on.

"In that sense I do not share the view at all in regard to a second bailout being necessary."

Mr Kenny accepted that unemployment levels in the Republic would remain "unacceptably high" during 2012, largely due to a lack of domestic demand.

But he said that Ireland had returned to growth in 2011 for the first time since 2007, and had enjoyed its first current account surplus in a decade. Competitiveness was "improving significantly" and every quarterly review of Ireland's finances by the troika of the European Commission, European Central Bank and IMF had been "positive".

"Our progress has been acknowledged by our peers and the international markets and has gone some way to restoring our international reputation," said Mr Kenny.

"Those positive endorsements are an important underpinning of the credibility of the decisions and actions of my Government."