Ireland is looking to issue a 10-year bond in the first half of this year, Finance Minister Michael Noonan said today.

The Minister said that the country is on track to be able to fully fund itself via the open market by 2014.

"I think the issuance will be 10 year and that will be one of the serious tests of market conditions and of our ability to get back into the market," Mr Noonan told a Bloomberg event in London.

"I would like that we would be back into the markets fully by 2014, and at present I think we are on track,'' he said.

In a speech at the Bloomberg event, Mr Noonan said that the Irish economy is entering its third year of growth in a row, the deficit is on a downward trajectory and the country is starting to once again attract the level of investment needed to create jobs and make a full return to the markets.

But he cautioned that the economy still faces many challenges, including the fact that domestic demand remains weak and is expected to contract again in 2012. He said the unemployment rate at 14.6% is still ''unacceptably high'', with long-term unemployment now a prominent feature of the labour market.

Describing the Anglo Irish Bank promissory notes as a ''millstone around the neck of the Irish taxpayer'', Mr Noonan said that after the recent deal on the note, the debts are more manageable and the state has been given the pace and time to recover and grow.

Mr Noonan also said that Ireland's future is very much tied to the EU, while at the same time, the country is very strongly attached to the ''excellent relationship and co-operation we have with the UK.''

''We would like to see a strong EU with a vibrant UK playing a central role. In our view, the EU needs the UK and, like Ireland, the UK needs the EU,' he added.