The Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has said that the top priority of Budget 2016 is to keep the country's recovery going, while providing relief and better services for the Irish people.

Delivering Budget 2016 in the Dáil today, the Minister said it includes steps like a cut in the USC, more nurses and doctors for the health service, more affordable and quality childcare, and measures to end the unfair treatment of the self-employed. 

"These are sensible, affordable steps that will keep the recovery going and bring its benefits to every family," he said.

Mr Noonan said that Ireland is on course to be the fastest growing economy in the euro zone for the second year in a row, with growth of 6.2% for 2015. 

The Minister said the Department of Finance is forecasting growth of 4.3% for next year. 

He said that 130,000 more people are now in work than at the low point in 2012 and this growth in employment is spread across the vast majority of the sectors  in the economy. 

Predicting the creation of another 48,000 new jobs by 2016, he said this will bring the total number of people at work to just over 2 million. 

Unemployment is set to fall to 8% by the end of next year, down from the peak of over 15% in 2012.

On the public finances, Mr Noonan said that the forecast deficit for 2015 of 2.1% is well ahead of the Government's target of 2.7% and the country's excessive deficit requirement of less than 3% of GDP. 

"This Government has consigned to the history books the days of boom and bust, and the attitude of ‘if I have it, I'll spend it," Mr Noonan stated.

He said the Department of Finance has forecast that the country will balance the books in headline terms in 2018.