The Head of the International Monetary Fund has congratulated Finance Minister Michael Noonan and the Government on the success of Ireland's efforts to meet its IMF programme.

Christine Lagarde said that Ireland is setting standards and that what has been done ''has been huge by any standards''.

She said that more than two thirds of the work has been done in terms of fiscal policies, but she cautioned that there is more work to do in the banking sector.

Ms Lagarde said there is good news in Irish economic growth figures and in the fact that the numbers employed in Ireland have grown for the first time in years.

Mr Noonan thanked Ms Lagarde for all the support she has given him since he became minister.

Answering questions at a press conference in Government Buildings, the IMF head said the fund has an open mind on the terms and conditions of how Ireland exits its bailout programme.

She said the imperative is to help Ireland exit successfully the programme it has implemented

On mortgage arrears, Ms Lagarde said the IMF is not pushing for repossessions of properties where loans are in difficulty. But it is pushing for certainty on the terms and conditions of repayments, she added.

Addressing the Institute of European Affairs today, the IMF head said that the ECB should cut interest rates further and strong economies such as Germany should allow higher inflation and wage growth.

"Monetary policy should remain accommodative, and we believe that there is still some limited room for the ECB to cut rates further," Christine Lagarde said.

"Restoring a sense of balance means lower inflation and wage growth in the south [of the euro zone], but it also might mean allowing somewhat higher inflation and wage growth in countries like Germany. This too is an aspect of pan European solidarity,'' she added.

During her visit to Dublin, Ms Lagarde hosted a lunch to mark International Women’s Day, which included the three female Cabinet members. A visit to the Central Bank was also on her agenda.

Earlier, Ms Lagarde held a meeting with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore in Dublin.