Taoiseach launches drive to reduce jobless rate

The Taoiseach Enda Kenny says 2014 will be the "year of jobs" as the Coalition plans to restore employment to Celtic Tiger levels of more than 2.1 million by 2020.

A new post-bailout economic plan has been unveiled that promises no income tax hikes between now and the end of the decade.

The plan says austerity will end in 2015, but "budgetary rigours" must be maintained.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan's said the adjustment target for 2015 remains at €2bn, but there is some material around suggesting it could be less.

Mr Kenny says while tough choices remain, this is a plan for growth and jobs.

The Government is hoping to drive down the country’s crippling unemployment rate to 8% by 2020.

In its first post-bailout economic plan, it also projected significantly-reduced Government debt over the next seven years.

The Taoiseach described the medium-term economic strategy as a roadmap for the years ahead that will provide certainty to both the Irish people and investors.

“I want to see to it that Government will stay the course, will work very hard, will make the decisions that are necessary to ensure a long-lasting and rich recovery – in jobs for our country and for our people,” Mr Kenny said.

The Opposition is criticising the plan with Fianna Fáil's Michael McGrath saying it offers nothing to struggling homeowners or small and medium enterprises.

Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty said the Government's track record on economic plans is not good.

Launching the strategy alongside Mr Kenny, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said the country should see job growth to the levels of the Celtic Tiger years.

He said the Government wants to achieve “full employment” by the end of this decade, which means a rate of unemployment below 6%.

“The document shows that employment can grow over the next six years back to the level of the Celtic Tiger, some 2.1 million jobs,” Mr Gilmore said.

“But this time we will be talking about real and sustainable jobs based on an export-led economy and not on a speculative bubble economy.”

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