Finance Minister Michael Noonan has said that a total of 44 staff at the Department of Finance hold a Masters in Economics qualification.

A further three are in the process of completing their Masters of Economics study.

In a written reply to a Dáil question from Fianna Fáil's Finance spokesman Michael McGrath, Mr Noonan said that all the staff within the Department's Economics Division hold a Masters in Economics or higher qualification. 

He added that resources have been recently allocated within that division dealing with monetary and financial economic analysis.

Mr Noonan said that since 2001, the Department has implemented organisational changes with the aim of developing a modern, professional and "forward-looking department".

He said that the Department continues to grow its expertise in the area of economics through the recruitment of staff via the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Services and also through recruitment via the Public Appointment Service. 

Mr McGrath said he "would like to see a greater effort by the Department and indeed across the public service to recruit people with private sector experience in their relevant field".

In reply to another question from Deputy McGrath, Mr Noonan said the Department of Finance has so far paid €385,502 to William Fry Solicitors in relation to work carried out in the capital reorganisation of the bank last year and preparation for a potential IPO of AIB.

He said these fees related to a period from their appointment in April 2015 up to the present date. 

Goldman Sachs also provided financial advice to the Department in respect of this reorganisation on a pro-bono basis.

The Finance Minister also pointed out that Rothschild & Sons were appointed as an Independent Financial Advisor to the Department last December to assist in the potential IPO. "No fees have yet been paid in this regard," he stated.

In response, Mr McGrath said: "Fianna Fáil recognises the importance of the planned AIB IPO and the pathway it provides for the State to recoup the massive amount of funds used to bail out the bank during the economic crash.

"It is inevitable that this process will involve significant outlays on professional fees and it it is vital that value for money is achieved in all such engagements.

"A successful flotation of the bank would be a statement of confidence in the future of our banking sector and the wider economy," he added.