Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore has outlined Ireland's priorities when it assumes the presidency of the European Council in January.

Mr Gilmore told reporters in Brussels this morning that securing an agreement on legacy bank debt will form a key part of the Government's agenda.

He said that the motto for the six-month presidency will be stability, jobs and growth.

One of the key priorities will be to secure agreement on the EU's seven-year €1 trillion budget and begin the process of steering it through the European Parliament.

Another of the main priorities will be to reduce youth unemployment across the union, where 26m people are unemployed.

Mr Gilmore said one means to achieve this would be to try to conclude trade agreements with the US, Canada and Japan in order to boost economic growth.

Minister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton said the Irish presidency would be "a no-nonsense" affair focused on substance not show.

The presidency will involve Irish ministers chairing EU meetings.

However, these will not include leaders' summits, which are chaired by Herman van Rompuy, and foreign affairs meetings, which are chaired by Catherine Ashton.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is to give a key address to the European Parliament on 16 January.

This afternoon, Mr Kenny said that for the first time since the current crisis began, he has detected a mood of optimism about the direction in which Europe is heading.

Speaking at a lunch hosted by the Association of European Journalists, he said the priorities of Ireland's presidency would be stability, jobs and growth.

Mr Gilmore said we would face enormous challenges, but that he hoped Ireland would be able to make a contribution to solving the many problems faced by Europe.

He also told his audience that people abroad were now viewing Ireland in a much more positive light.

Minister Gilmore said that it was due to the patience and understanding of people in Ireland who knew the difficult decisions that had to be made.