The country's budget deficit fell to 0.3% of gross domestic product at the end of 2017, new figures from the Central Statistics Office show today.

The figure hit the Government's target as the country came close to balancing its books for the first time in a decade.

The deficit, which ballooned into double figures in 2009 - leading to a three-year international bailout - narrowed from 0.7% at the end of 2016. 

GDP growth of 7.8% last year pushed the debt-to-GDP ratio down to 68%.

But statistical distortions related to Ireland's large multinational sector have reduced the usefulness of the standard measure.

Despite the reduction, Irish debt remains among the highest in the euro zone compared to general government revenue.