Argument still surrounds the validity of figures deployed by particular parties but there is nothing to stop them setting out whatever “fiscal space” they wish. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Parties are vying to plan the spending of money the economy may not even earn

Investors use ratings agency standings to guide decisions on where to put their money

Move follows a positive reassessment of the prospects for strong economic growth

Cranes on the Dublin skyline. “One key point to recall in this panorama is that every single promise made on the hustings is predicated on a continuation of growth in Ireland, which itself depends on world growth.”

‘No one speaks of glittering growth; it’s all about the threat to insipid growth’

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and ministers, Richard Bruton, Simon Harris and Michael Noonan pictured  at the launch of Fine Gael’s long term economic plan. Photograph:  Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

Plan is based on 4.3% GDP growth in 2016 and 3.6% in 2017, down from 7% last year

“For every politician who says ‘my fiscal space is bigger than yours’, a rival is certain to say ‘that’s because you’re assuming no-one will grow old in the next few years’.” File photograph: Getty Images

Promise of largesse can be cast as sensible - as expression assumes binding rules met first

The European Commission has revised Ireland’s minimum “medium-term objective”, providing more scope to cut tax or boost spending in that period. Photograph:  Francois Lenoir/Reuters

Move means next government can aim for structural deficit of 0.5% of GDP

Taoiseach Enda Kenny: going to  Áras an Uachtaráin on Wednesday to set a date for the election. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

Will strong VAT and car sales boost the Government in the run-up to the poll?

The January figures suggest tax collection continues to run ahead of target, although the full profile of expected monthly receipts will not be published until later this week.

Final figures before election show increase of €308m ( 7.3%) on same period in 2015

Paddy Power shares gained almost 4% in Dublin to close at €142.75 on the last day of trading before the merger

About €1bn in Paddy Power stock changes hands as imminent merger with Betfair sparks share auction

Paddy Power’s merger with Betfair and their inclusion on the Morgan Stanley Composite Index spurred considerable buying interest in Dublin

Shares in Paddy Power and Ryanair rise sharply on profits and merger news

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has been saying that the next government might have as much as €12 billion in the course of the next five years. In recent days, however, claims by the IFAC that only €3.2 billion might be available have been seized on by the opposition.

Irish Fiscal Advisory Council’s stance differs from that of Michael Noonan as assessment of funds available for tax cuts and spend(...)

The onset of the election campaign comes with 10-year Irish borrowing costs under 1 per cent, suggesting that Dublin is seen as a “semi-core” debt issuer with yields well below other euro zone crisis countries. Photograph: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

Financial market observers predict return of Coalition, though with reduced majority

Jean-Claude Trichet: Three times he threatened to cut Ireland loose. Photograph: Eric Luke

The senior bonds debacle is resonant because it reflects a profound sense of injustice

Jean-Claude Trichet, former president of the European Central Bank (ECB), who led the ECB during Ireland’s bailout. On Thursday the ECB said it had always been transparent about its role in Ireland’s economic crash. Photographer: Chris Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images

‘External authorities’ warned a ‘bomb’ would go off if State tried to burn bondholders

Former ECB pesident Jean-Claude Trichet: the banking report attributed a pivotal role to a threatening letter from  Trichet in advance of the bailout. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Committee says ECB insisted there would be no burden-sharing with bondholders

Kevin Cardiff: “I told the Taoiseach, in a side conversation, that if we accepted their wording, ‘the banks would be laughing at us’, or words to that effect.”

‘Solvent’ as it pertained to status of covered banks was removed from final official statement

The late Brian Lenihan and then finance minister: The inquiry also said a European Central Bank letter to Mr  Lenihan,  on November 19th, 2010, “threatened” the withdrawal of crucial support for Irish banks if the State did enter a bailout. “Jean-Claude Trichet’s letter caused the Irish government position to crystallise.”

Ireland’s entry into programme ‘inevitable’

Central Bank chief economist Gabriel Fagan: said “adverse consequences” might be expected if there was considerable political uncertainty after the General Election. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Concern about external risks has bank forecasting strong but slower growth in 2017

The Central Bank has called on political parties and the Irish people to consider using money reserved for tax and spending measures to accelerate the reduction of the budget deficit and national debt.  File photograph: Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times

Intervention comes only days before Taoiseach expected to call general election

The Central Bank said Ireland’s stronger growth performance has been underpinned by both the stabilising influence of the policy and macroeconomic adjustments which have been undertaken.

Regulator forecasts growth for 2016 of almost 5% but notes growing uncertainty over China and market turbulence

Checking the numbers: Facebook says it  recognises a “possible, but not probable” obligation in relation to tax reassessments dating back to the start of the decade. Photograph: Dado Ruvic/Reuters

Social media giant declares in filings it will defend ‘any and all such claims’

Michael Noonan presenting Budget 2016. The European Commission assessment assumes real gross domestic product growth of 6 per cent for 2015 and 4.5 per cent for 2016. This is lower than latest Government estimates. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Projected costs of ageing also cited as factor in medium-term risk to economy

The agreement for Google to pay back-taxes to London comes as the internet search engine faces a demand for up to €1 billion from the French tax authorities. The Italian tax authorities are also reported to have also challenged the company. File photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

Search engine has been long criticised for aggressive tax strategies at its Irish unit

A man  at an Apple event in San Francisco: observers believe there is scope for Apple to settle the tax case for less than €1 billion. Photograph: Beck Diefenbach/Reuters

Tech giant and White House aligned in fight against European Commission tax inquiry

Danske Bank: “The main political parties are committed to the reform process and with the improvement in growth, lower unemployment and healthier banks, the possible volatility should be short-lived.” Photograph: Freya Ingrid Morales/Bloomberg

Cost of borrowing could rise short-term if vote leads to political uncertainty, says bank

US treasury secretary Jack Lew has been asked to consider using a provision allowing a “double rate of tax” to be imposed on any country engaging in discriminatory taxation. Photograph: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

US to consider action if technology firm directed to pay back taxes in Ireland

Mario Draghi: said the euro area recovery was proceeding but risks to it outlook “remain on the downside”. Photograph: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg

Stocks rebound after European Central Bank chief agrees to review policy in March

ECB president, Mario Draghi, has opened the door to greater stimulus. Photograph: Bloomberg

ECB president cites increased risks to euro zone recovery, says remains ‘vigilant’

IMF report emerges fund’s executive board indicates fiscal plan in Budget 2016 “broadly appropriate”. Photograph: Getty Images

Report emerges as Fine Gael set to campaign on election plan for shelving universal levy

 Women work in a clothes factory in Huaibei, Anhui province, China. China said its GDP expanded by 6.9 per cent in 2015, the slowest growth in 25 years. Photograph:  EPA

Fears as Chinese growth slows to rates not seen for 25 years

The self-employed sector of the economy is feeling the benefit of a big jump in earnings as the recovery intensifies, new figures suggest.

Central Statistics Office figures reveal the savings rate is also rising significantly

The European Commission report said the 2016 budget was “broadly compliant” with fiscal rules, adding that Dublin remained on track to correct the excessive budget deficit in 2015.

Reservations over estimates based on ‘strong but volatile’ corporate tax receipts

Janet Yellen, now Fed chair but then chief of the San Francisco Fed, told a December 2010 meeting that “the fiscal responses required for these countries to avoid restructuring are, frankly, draconian”. Photograph: Drew Angerer/Bloomberg

Transcripts reveal that US central bankers thought €67.5bn deal would be sufficient

 Michael Noonan: the Minister for Finance  has predicted a balanced budget in headline terms in 2017. Photograph: Eric Luke

Ireland’s previous fiscal target allowed scope to boost the budget by €8.8bn

An investor walks past a screen showing stock market movements at a securities firm in Hangzhou, in  China’s Zhejiang province: the slowdown in China has caused markets to plunge. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

For all of Ireland’s economic growth in 2015, the world outside seems to be changing fast

Flooding in Athlone. Citing a higher frequency of motor and liability claims as economic growth picks up, S&P said Irish insurers had a difficult year in 2015 and were likely incur losses for both 2015 and 2016.

Report finds that Irish-based insurers face an ‘intermediate’ level of risk

Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath and party leader Micheál Martin: McGrath rejected the idea of an opening bid in an election auction. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

Universal social charge and capital gains are focus of moves planned within ‘fiscal space’

Shares in Permanent TSB, which is to a make a 2 per cent cashback offer to new mortgage customers, lost 2.9 per cent to close at €4.38

More falls for indices in Europe and the US as troubled week ends on downbeat note

Renua party leader Lucinda Creighton: In Renua’s projections, the flat tax would deliver an extra €1 billion to the exchequer from tax on the likely drawdown of €4 billion in bank deposits by business owners as they seek to avail of the new rate. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

On the face of it, the tax would deliver big up-front benefits but it also involves risks

Philip Lane at the Central Bank: ‘The first and foremost point to make is that these rules are part of a new vision for how the European financial system should operate.’  Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Interview: Mortgage limits may go up or down but the new era of credit control is here to stay, says governor of the Central Bank (...)

Central Bank governor Philip Lane. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Regulations that have particularly affected first-time buyers to remain until summer

Minister for Public Expenditure  Brendan Howlin   and Minister for Finance Michael Noonan at the publication of figures that showed  the tax collection reached €45.6 billion in 2015, up €4.32 billion on 2014 and €3.3 billion more than the forecast at the start of 2015. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Last year’s deficit of just €62m will improve scope to allocate more resources to spending

Minister for Public Expenditure   Brendan Howlin: The underlying deficit in 2010 – Fianna Fáil’s last year in office before the February 2011 election –  was  €18.7 billio, in 2015  the deficit was €62 million. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Script for hustings becomes predictable as Howlin points out scale of previous deficits

Tax revenue in 2015 was boosted by strong income tax returns, following increased employment and increased receipts from value added tax, which reflects increased consumer spending. The figures were also boosted by particularly strong corporation tax returns.

State collects €45.6bn in tax in 2015, which is €3.3bn more than forecast at start of year

Prof Philip Lane, Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland: has said the rules on  home-loan caps could be loosened, tightened or kept unchanged in light of the review. Photograph: Jason Clarke.

Central Bank governor Philip Lane said on variable-rate mortgages, he not could interfere in contracts between banks and their c(...)

The Bar Council retains the right to refuse membership of the Law Library to barristers in employment or new business models. The Law Society retains financial and accounting oversight of solicitors.

Opposition to legal profession reforms was expressed to Taoiseach Enda Kenny directly

Law Society director general Ken Murphy: Wrote to Taoiseach Enda Kenny in December 2011 to express “very deep concerns” about the Legal Services Regulation Bill. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

‘Deep concern’ expressed to Fine Gael chief in meetings before Bill watered down

If uncertainty in electoral contests is a given in a democracy, Ireland’s economy enters the new year in growth mode. Photograph: Getty Images

General election and possible Brexit will be key determinants of economic health in 2016

The biggest increases in employment in 2015 were in construction and industry, each of which added jobs at a rate of more than 1,000 per month. But gains were also seen in agriculture, transport, the IT sector and in professional and administrative services. Photograph :Alan Betson.

Employment: Construction industry leads the way but regional disparities in employment emerge

Brendan Howlin, Minister for Public Expenditure and Michael Noonan, Minister for Finance: revised 2016 spending estimates from Mr Howlin show net exchequer pay bill is forecast to reach €15.45 billion. Photograph: Alan Betson

Revised spending estimates show public pension expenditure is to drop by €14.8m

The Central Bank realised a €180.3m gain on the sale of €500 million of 2038 notes this day last year

Total amount of Anglo Irish debt disposed of by Central Bank this year is €2bn

The ESRI suggests the Irish market needs about 25,000 new homes per year but only 12,500 completions are likely this year and 13,100 next year. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Necessity for urgent action clear

One of the largest undeveloped sites in Dublin is the 10 hectare Irish Glass Bottle site in Ringsend. It was bought in 2006 for €412 million by a consortium that included the State’s Dublin Docklands Development Authority.

ESRI: Next government may have to forgo tax cuts to prevent economy overheating

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange shortly after the opening bell in New York. Photograph: Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Long-anticipated though modest increase also lifted dollar but piled more pain on oil

Fed chairman Janet Yellen came close to an increase in October but did not ultimately bite. Robust job creation figures released since then bolstered the case for a rise by indicating that the US is coming close to full employment. Photograph: Drew Angerer/Bloomberg

US agency needs to tread the line between fear of inflation and damaging a fragile global recovery, but initial impact here will b(...)

The Federal Reserve building in Washington. The Fed’s decision lift its targeted rate range to 0.25 per cent to 0.50 per cent from the current zero to 0.25 per cent range was widely anticipated in financial markets.

Central Bank stresses that only ‘gradual’ rises are on the cards

Ryanair was down 0.19 per cent to €14.34 after reports of tax inquiries into Brookfield Aviation International, a contract supplier of pilots it uses. Photograph:   Chris Radburn/PA Wire

Uncertainty rules as investors brace for Federal Reserve’s expected US interest rate hike

The Ulster Bank construction purchasing managers’ index shows a rising demand for construction workers, with the employment index  at its highest level since June

Pace picked up in commercial projects but eased a bit in housing and civil engineering

RaboDirect said 93 per cent of respondents were confident about the economic outlook in Ireland, the highest for five years, and  CFA Society Ireland found expectations of strong Irish share prices and economic growth. Photograph: Thinkstock

RaboDirect and CFA Society surveys positive about Ireland but point to uncertainty globally

Ibec: “Surging corporation tax revenue should be ring-fenced for productive investment projects, not used to inflate current expenditure.” Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Employers’ groups urges ramped up spending on core areas of State’s infrastructure

The NTMA pay arrangements were disclosed by the Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan.  Photo: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

Separate deal would see three staff receive €196,250 on contract completion

NTMA  chief executive Conor O’Kelly: cautions that the State still has large debts  – of about €203 billion – to service.  Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

NTMA chief Conor O’Kelly knows he took over at a good time, but is aware of how quickly things change

Only Norway – not an EU member state – has faster growth   than Ireland’s in Europe these days

Annual GDP growth of 7% in third quarter of year outstrips all other euro zone countries and most official forecasts

Christmas shoppers on Henry Street, Dublin. The CSO figures show consumer spending and capital investment are increasing, with output rising in all business sectors. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Government anticipates EU will soon grant leeway on easing key budget target

While CSO numbers reflect increasing domestic demand, they also point to a decline in net exports in the same period.

Latest GDP numbers reflect increasing output in ‘all business sectors’, says CSO

Central Bank  officials Ed Sibley, Mark Cassidy and Gabriel Fagan. The bank’s review found the economy has improved but is exposed.  Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

Growth, exports, labour market and financial sector could be affected

AIB and Bank of Ireland will each be required to set aside 1.5 per cent of their risk-weighted assets between 2019 and 2021 to boost their resilience as systemically-important lenders.

Regulations come into force from January 1st as part of European effort to prevent another credit boom

 Standard & Poor’s said it did not believe the next government would repudiate current fiscal targets. Photograph: Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Credit rating agency says departure from targets could lead to ‘negative’ action

Applegreen gained 0.92 per cent on the day to close at €5.50, erasing some of the ground it lost before news this week that rival Topaz is being sold to Canadian group Couche-Tard.

Wall Street gets boost from US jobs data while ECB stimulus plan knocks stocks

European Central Bank president Mario Draghi: he pledged to keep buying €60 billion of sovereign bonds each month until March 2017. Photograph:  Ralph Orlowski/Reuters

Initiative still expected to accelerate Ireland’s recovery by weakening the euro

European Central Bank president Mario Draghi: Defended the new plan, saying the moves were “adequate”, even as he left the door open to deploy “all other instruments” if needed. Photograph: Reuters

Bank chief Mario Draghi’s campaign should help further economic recovery in Ireland

 Tánaiste Joan Burton and Taoiseach Enda Kenny:   the two Government parties  know private polling points to voter concern  that the next administration avoids policies that would undermine the turnaround. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

New economic data last before election and will be deployed by all in pursuit of power

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has uttered plenty of reassuring words but the fact remains corporate tax still tends to be volatile.  Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Whatever about the volatility of tax take, the books look close to being balanced

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan: He  has been insisting the “vast bulk” of the 2015 surge in corporate tax is likely to be repeated in 2016. Photograph: Julien Warnand/EPA

Deficit target reachable even if €525m 2015 corporate tax take not repeated, says Noonan

Overall Revenue collected €41.97 billion in tax in the 11 months to November,€2.94 billion above profile. Receipts in the first 11 months were €3.82 billion or 10 per cent ahead of the same period in 2014.

Strong November receipts see €470m more than estimated taken in

Taoiseach Enda Kenny will issue an emphatic pledge today to reinforce the recovery and run “sensible” budgetary policy if he wins the general election.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny to pledge ‘sensible’ budgetary strategy if FG returned to power

Leo Varadkar: Health service was to get €600m in new funding but the Minister has since asked for another €100m or more. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Contentious discussions expected on health budget as tax receipts exceed the forecasts

 Minister for Finance Michael Noonan:  Fine Gael’s manifesto must say how its spending and tax plans would be funded. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien / The Irish Times

Election aside, we must face the truth about financial constraints on highly indebted State

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan presenting Budget 2016: The Irish Fiscal Advisory Council says spending is rising too fast . Photograph: Eric Luke

Problems are piling up in the background even amid rapid economic growth

Prof John McHale, the NUI Galway economist who chairs the fiscal council, said the spending increase this year was funded by an unexpected surge in corporation tax. Photograph; Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

€1.5bn in supplementary spending marks ‘deviation from prudent policy’

Revenue said the final 2015 return likely to be ‘relatively unchanged’ from current level of receipts. Photograph: Joe St Leger

Government told €300m of €2bn surge should be excluded from 2016 forecasts

The aim of the new credit register is to provide lenders with a more comprehensive analysis of creditworthiness of borrowers, with information on their credit profile

Philip Lane prepares to take command of bank in succession to outgoing governor Patrick Honohan

Aryzta chairman Denis Lucey, who will  stand for re-election at its annual meeting in December for the last time. He has been chairman of Aryzta since its formation.  Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Selection follows board shake-up at food group in response to investor criticism

Margrethe Vestager: the European competition commissioner   initiated  inquiry in June 2014 after her office issued preliminary findings against Ireland. Photograph: Vincent Kessler/Reuters

Development delays commission’s long inquiry for second time in six months

 Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald with her predecessor Alan Shatter. Photograph: Eric Luke

Sense remains established bodies’ view has prevailed, despite some positive proposals

Enda Kenny: the Taoiseach is on record saying he will target a balanced budget by 2018 if he returns to power early next year. Photograph: Alan Betson

The Government would of course take its time to scrap the deficit – there’s an election on the way after all

Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes: Ireland needs to think about what it wants from the process. “We cannot be passive bystanders”

Brian Hayes will call for debate on the ‘five presidents’ report’ at a Dublin conference

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said the extent of the risk cited by the commission in respect of Ireland’s expenditure benchmark was “not significant” but accepted it underscored the requirement for tight spending control. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Ireland deemed to be on track to correct excessive deficit, says Minister for Finance

The jobs recovery is making big inroads into long-term unemployment. That dropped by 29,400 (or 21.1 per cent) between the third quarter of 2014 and 2015. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Increased employment magnifies housing shortage and puts pressure on infrastructure

The introduction of the new authority will end centuries of self-regulation by the Law Society and the Bar Council.  Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Amendments will allow professional legal bodies to retain many of their powers

An update of monthly Central Statistics Office figures shows the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in October was 8.9 per cent, down from the previously reported 9.3 per cent. (Photograph: Frank Miller /	THE IRISH TIMES)

CSO quarterly data shows rate dropped to 9.1% in July-September

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald: will bring a memorandum to Cabinet on Tuesday. Photograph: Dara MacDónaill/The Irish Times

Legal Services Regulation Bill resisted by professions

Legal reform: The Bar Council will retain its power to refuse membership of the Law Library to barristers in employment, partnerships or new business models. Photograph: Getty Images

Bar Council and Law Society to retain key powers under proposed regulatory regime

Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin and Minister for Finance Michael Noonan presenting Budget 2016 at Government Buildings. Photograph: Eric Luke

Authorities in Brussels expected to express reservation about rollover of €1.5 billion

Grafton (owner of Woodie’s DIY): market statement said “the recovery in Irish consumer spending became more broadly based”

Latest evidence from trading statements and tax data shows growth intensifying

  Taoiseach Enda Kenny   at the launch of Enterprise 2025: Ambitious employment targets are predicated on economic growth continuing  without    major interruption to Ireland’s   growth trajectory by  external or internal shock. Photograph:  Chris Bellew/Fennells

Master plan involves creation of more than 200,000 jobs over next five years

Former International Monetary Fund mission chief to Ireland   Ajai Chopr:   He described Mr Trichet’s letter on the eve of the 2010 bailout to the late Brian Lenihan, then finance minister, as a “gratuitous” measure. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Former IMF chief accuses ECB of putting protection of its own balance sheet first

Ms Eaton said the mileage of a motor vehicle is one of its main characteristics which provides information as to its usage and prior history.

Competition and Consumer Protection Commission took enforcement action against Dublin motor dealer

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan. He said the commission had assured him “informally” that his fiscal plan for 2016 was within EU rules. Photograph: Eric Luke

Think tank says Ireland has ‘robust’ growth and Budget 2016 was ‘reasonable’

Denis O’Brien attempted to prevent reporting of Catherine Murphy TD’s Dáil speech. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Confidentiality should have been legally anticipated as a problem in IBRC inquiry

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