International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde says Ireland is now in a much stronger position than when the Troika bailout programme began.

But she has warned that significant economic challenges remain.

She was speaking as the IMF board approved the final review of Ireland's performance under the programme which formally expires tomorrow. 

The IMF said the programme had been successfully completed and approved a final payment of €600m in loans.

Ms Lagarde said the programme had achieved its core objectives of stabilising the financial sector.

She said the programme significantly improved the fiscal position and regained market access for the sovereign.

But she said unemployment remains too high while debt sustainability is fragile.

Heavy private debts and slow progress by banks in resolving problem loans were holding back growth.

To limit growth problems, she said future the tax base should be broadened. 

Reforms of health, education and social welfare budgets should protect the most vulnerable, Ms Lagarde added.