The Taoiseach has told the Fine Gael party conference in Limerick that Ireland should exit its bailout on 15 December.

In a speech to his party, Enda Kenny outlined Government steps taken to bring the country out of an economic crisis he said had left Ireland's reputation in tatters.

"Tonight I can confirm that Ireland is on track to exit the EU/IMF bailout on December 15th. And we won't go back.

"It won't mean that our financial troubles are over. Yes, there are still fragile times ahead. There's still a long way to go. But at last, the era of the bailout will be no more. The economic emergency will be over.

"But the exit from the bailout is not an end in itself. In fact it's just the beginning. The beginning of our freedom to choose the kind of Ireland we want to build," Mr Kenny added. 

He said he knew how tough the decisions his Government had made in that process had been on people, their families and their businesses.

But those sacrifices had paid off, the Taoiseach said, with Ireland exceeding all budgetary targets.

The fruits of Government policy were being seen in job creation, he added.

"Yes, there are too many people still out of work. Yes, there are too many people still leaving the country. But you know something, there's a change happening: job creation is now at its highest level in five years," Mr Kenny said.

"The Live Register number has fallen every month for 15 consecutive months. That's progress. Before we came to office, Ireland was losing 7,000 jobs a month. Now we're creating 3,000 new jobs every month.

"That's a wage, hope, dignity being returned to 3,000 families this month, every month," he told applauding delegates. 

A week after losing the referendum to abolish the Seanad, Mr Kenny pledged legislation to extend the franchise for elections to the upper house. 

"The outcome is clear and we will now continue reforming the political system and ensuring that the Seanad is as effective as possible.

"I intend to discuss this with other leaders in the coming weeks and, as a small first step, I have asked that legislation be prepared to give effect to the 1979 decision of the Irish people to extend the Seanad electorate to all graduates," said Mr Kenny. 

In early political reaction to the speech, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams accused the Taoiseach of "living in a world of his own".

"What we got from the Taoiseach this evening was an exercise in spin, an attempt to convince the people that austerity is working," Mr Adams said.

"But the reality for communities and families across the State is very different. Try telling families at risk of losing their homes that austerity is working. Try telling the 415,000 people on the live register or the 300,000 that have emigrated in the last four years.

"The families who have to choose between heating the home or feeding the kids know austerity isn't working as do the 49,000 people waiting on hospital treatments," the Sinn Féin president added.

Mr Adams also argued that the Seanad franchise should extend to all citizens and not just graduates.