Ireland's national pride has been restored, but the lives of its people won't change overnight as the country re-enters the money markets, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has warned.
In a televised address to the nation, Kenny thanked the Irish people for their efforts and insisted their sacrifices are beginning to pay off as Ireland officially emerged from its 85 billion euro (£72bn) bailout programme.
But the Taoiseach acknowledged that despite recent economic improvements, many are yet to feel the benefits.
"This is an important step but it is not an end in itself. Our lives won't change overnight," Mr Kenny said.
"But it does send out a powerful signal internationally, that Ireland is fighting back, that the spirit of our people is as strong as ever.
"Your patience and resilience have restored our national pride and empowered us to face the challenges that remain."
Ireland is set to re-enter the money markets today as the first eurozone nation to have completed a strict bailout programme imposed by the Troika, led by the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund.
The Irish public has endured four austerity budgets and 12 intense reviews by the Troika.
Overall, the government has hiked taxes to the tune of 5.3 billion euro (£4.5 billion) and cut public spending by 9.6 billion euro (£8.1 billion).
Kenny said the Government's plan for the future will be built on enterprise and not speculation.
He pledged to increase total employment to over 2 million people by 2020, which he said will replace all of the jobs that were lost during the crisis.
Unemployment has eased in recent months, falling to its lowest level in four years in November at 12.5 per cent, but youth unemployment remains a problem.
Overall, one in four Irish under 25 is still unemployed.
"Throughout our history, the Irish people have always shown that nothing is impossible for us to achieve, when we really apply ourselves to a challenge or cause," he said.
"Believe me, Government will work with you to put in place the foundations for a secure and prosperous future for you and the next generation.
"I thank you for the part that you have played in Ireland's recovery to date.
"My commitment to you and to your families is that for the remainder of its term, this government will work, might and mane, to finish the job that you entrusted to us."
Ireland's finance minister, Michael Noonan, hailed the country's bailout exit as a "very significant milestone" and described the Irish people as the real "heroes and heroines", but insisted that the country must continue to make "prudent" economic and social decisions.
Watch Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the video below:
Additional reporting PA
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