New figures from the Central Statistics Office show that the economy - as measured by gross domestic product - grew by 6.7% in 2018.

This made it the European Union's fastest-growing economy for the fifth year in a row, although the figures were flattered once again by statistical distortions. 

The relevance of using the conventional measure for economic performance as an accurate measure for such an open economy diminished when 2015 GDP growth was adjusted up to 26% after a massive revision to the stock of capital assets. 

Such distortions, related to Ireland's large cluster of multinational companies, boosted the figures again early last year and meant growth for the year as a whole came in just below the inflated 7.2% posted in 2017. 

But a range of other more stable data from employment to retail sales point to very strong growth in the real economy.

The CSO has begun to phase in new measures which strip out some of the distorting globalised activities.

One such measure, modified domestic demand, expanded 3.3% and should be regarded as an important indicator of changes in underlying demand last year, the CSO said in a statement. 

GDP expanded by 0.1% on a quarterly basis from the three months from October to December, compared with 0.9% in the previous quarter. 

The annual growth cut the country's debt as a percentage of GDP to around 68%, Michael Connolly, a senior statistician at the CSO said. 

The Central Bank has forecast that GDP growth will moderate to 4.4% this year if Britain leaves the European Union with an agreement but eke out growth of 1.5% if the UK crashes out of the bloc without a deal.

The CSO also said today that GNP showed an increase of 5.9% in 2018 over 2017.

Today's figures show that in the larger sectors of the economy, industry showed a small contraction of 0.2% in volume terms, while Information and Communication grew by 30.7% in 2018.  

In the sectors driven by domestic activity, construction showed growth of 15.4% in the year while Distribution, Transport, Hotels and Restaurants grew by 4.1%. 

But the Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing sector decreased by 12.9% in the year.

Meanwhile, the country's Current Account recorded a surplus of €29 billion in 2018, up from a surplus of €24.9 billion in 2017. 

This was as a result of an increase of €10.2 billion in the trade surplus, which offset an increase of €6.1 billion in the Income deficit.  

The CSO figures also reveal a surplus of €8.2 billion for trade in goods and services with the UK in 2018.  

This was offset by a deficit of €13.7 billion for income flows with the UK, giving an overall Current Account deficit of €5.6 billion for the year.

Commenting on today's CSO figures, the Minister for Finance said that importantly, the growth in the economy is broad-based with positive underlying contributions from both the domestic and multinational sectors.

Paschal Donohoe noted that modified final domestic demand - which is a better indicator of domestic developments as it excludes some of the volatile components of investment - increased by 4.5% last year.  

"This is consistent with other indicators - employment, tax receipts - showing continued improvements in living standards last year," the Minister said. 

But he added that the international outlook is less benign than was the case at the time of the Budget, with some of the key risks having now materialised. 

"The Brexit cloud hangs over the economy and, as I outlined in January, the impact on the most-exposed sectors of the economy could be severe," Mr Donohoe said.

"Careful management of the economy and of the public finances is needed now more than ever in order to chart our way forward through the uncertain times ahead," he added.