The State has further reduced its stake in Bank of Ireland, bringing its shareholding in the bank to below 5%.

In a statement to the Dublin Stock Exchange, the bank said the state's shareholding has reduced from 5.94% to 4.93%.

Francesca McDonagh, Group CEO of Bank of Ireland, said the over the past nine months the State's shareholding in Bank of Ireland Group has reduced by two thirds.

"The State is now the third largest shareholder in the group," the Bank of Ireland CEO said.

"By the end of 2021, Bank of Ireland had returned €6.2 billion to the State from its original support of €4.8 billion," Francesca McDonagh said,

"The ongoing sales process adds to these returns, and is a positive process for Irish taxpayers, the Irish economy, and Bank of Ireland. This is also a further important step towards normalisation of the State's relationship with Bank of Ireland," she added.

The State's 4.93% stake in Bank of Ireland compares to its sharehoding of 13.9% when it began a process of selling down some of its holding last June.

In total, the State put €4.7 billion into Bank of Ireland during the financial crisis, with the initial investment coming in early 2009.

Since then Bank of Ireland has returned more than €6 billion to the State. This makes it the only Irish bank to have repaid the Irish taxpayer for its support.

The current share sale process was due to conclude in January, however last month Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe announced that its deadline would be extended to May 2022.