After an ECOFIN meeting in Punchestown this evening, the Minister for Finance, Charlie McCreevy, has said he is hopeful that the state finances will turn out well this year.

He was reacting to the latest exchequer returns showing the country's finances are much better than expected.

The informal meeting involved all of the European Union Economics and Finance Ministers and was chaired by the Mr McCreevy.

It was the last such gathering before the enlargement of the EU from 15 to 25 member states takes place on 1 May.

The meeting was seeking consensus on the next head of the IMF, with two candidates in the running: the outgoing Spanish Economy Minister Rodrigo Rato and the French head of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Jean Lemierre.

Since the founding of the IMF and the World Bank in 1944, the managing director of the IMF has by custom been a European and the president of the World Bank an American.