Finance Minister Michael Noonan has told the Dáil that the macro economic and fiscal framework underpinning this year's Budget is far more favourable than in previous years.

Delivering Budget 2015, the Minister said that the recovery is gaining momentum.

He pointed out that while unemployment is still too high at 11.1%, it is at its lowest level in five and a half years and has now fallen for 27 months in a row.

Mr Noonan said that the Finance Department had forecast GDP growth of 4.7% this year. As a result of the package of measures he is introducing today, the GDP forecast for 2015 has been revised up to 3.9%. 

He said the growth rates for 2016, 2017 and 2018 will be 3.4%. "This is the type of solid and steady economic growth that we want in the coming years"," the Minister said.

According to the Minister, the Finance department was targeting a deficit of 2.7% in Budget 2015, ahead of the required target of 2.9% of GDP.

"I think that it is appropriate to go beyond our requirements under the Stability and Growth Pact in order to build upon the progress made to date," he stated.

He said that achieving a deficit below 3% does not indicate an end to "fiscal prudence" in Ireland. "Exceeding our target in 2015 will underpin solid, steady economic growth into the medium term and it is a further step on the way to balancing the budget," Mr Noonan said.

The Dáil heard today that the forecast debt to GDP ratio for the end of 2014 is 111%. When account is taken of cash balances and other financial assets, the 2014 net debt forecast is just below 91%. But Mr Noonan said that the country's debt level is still  high compared to other European countries and so we need to continue to reduce debt. 

"Not only will this make the debt more sustainable, it will also minimise the cost to the taxpayer of interest paid on the national debt," the Minister said.

Mr Noonan said that Budget 2015 is about securing the recovery, building for the future and broadening it to families across the country. "The Government will not be returning to the boom and bust model of the past that has spectacularly and repeatedly failed the Irish people," he stated.