A decision by the ratings agency Standard & Poor's to increase Ireland’s long-term sovereign credit rating has been welcomed by the Government and the agency which manages Ireland’s debt.

The move should help underpin a lower cost of borrowing for the country on the international markets.

S&P upgraded Ireland’s rating from A+ to AA-, the level it was at prior to the financial crisis and bailout by the Troika and the fourth highest possible long-term debt rating from the firm.

It also assigned a stable outlook to the rating and upgraded Ireland’s short-term rating from A-1 to A-1+, S&P’s highest short-term rating.

It’s the first time in over four years that Irish long term debt has been upgraded by the international agency.

The NTMA said the decision continues the upward trend in Ireland’s sovereign ratings that has been evident for some time.

"In making its decision, S&P referenced Ireland’s strong fiscal outcomes and vigorous economic growth," said Conor O’Kelly, NTMA Chief Executive.

"In addition S&P noted the very long dated average maturity of Ireland’s debt (10 years) post the smoothing and lengthening strategy of recent years."

"Our new AA- rating will increase the pool of potential buyers of Irish Government bonds, which will be positive for demand and further enhance our ability to diversify our investor base."

The decision puts Ireland’s debt rating closer to that of other major eurozone nations.

S&P did, however, note that general government debt here remains high.

But it said the commercial debt stock is very long-dated with an average maturity of about 10 years, while rates are close to all-time lows.

Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure & Reform, Paschal Donohoe, welcomed the move and said it reflects the next stage in the journey that Ireland has been on for the last ten years.