Tax revenues grew in 2011 for the first time in three years, according to the end of year Exchequer statement.

The Exchequer deficit, which is the gap between tax revenues and Government spending, was just under €25bn.

Tax revenues rose mainly due to the introduction of the Universal Social Charge in the 2011 Budget.

However, the final outturn was €875m lower than the Department of Finance had forecast at the time that the Budget was prepared.

Corporation tax returns of €261m, which were received too late to be accounted for in December 2011 and will now form part of January's receipts, help mitigate that figure slightly.

The Exchequer deficit of €24.9bn includes a €7.6bn bank recapitalisation bill.

When that is stripped out, the underlying deficit is €2.75bn lower than it was at the end of 2010 indicating that painful austerity measures are slowly closing the gap between spending and tax receipts.

The Ministers for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform said the figures show that Ireland is making progress in returning its public finances to a more sustainable path.

In a joint statement, Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin said the 2011 figures are slightly ahead of estimates included in Budget 2012 and "we have met our budgetary targets set as part of the EU/IMF Programme for 2011".

Mr Noonan said the fact that tax revenues weakened in the second half of the year was not surprising given the more difficult economic conditions since the summer.