DUBLIN --Ireland's economy expanded again in the third quarter, as the eurozone nation continued to outpace its EU partners since exiting a financial rescue program, official data showed Thursday.
Gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 1.4% in the three months to the end of September, the Central Statistics Office said.
GDP forecasts for the three months to the end of June remained unchanged at 1.9%.
Economic activity was largely driven by strong domestic demand and increased output across most sectors.
Ireland's average growth rate in the first nine months stood at 7%, the strongest in the 28-member European Union.
"Ireland might grow faster than China this year. Fresh GDP data for the third quarter confirms Ireland's position as the strongest grower in the eurozone," said analyst Anthony Baert at Capital Economics.
Ireland's economy accelerated by 5.2% last year, making it the fastest growing economy in the EU. That feat which is now forecast to be repeated this year.
In 2013 Ireland became the first of the financially rescued eurozone countries to exit a bailout program following a period of state spending cuts and tax rises.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan described Thursday's figures as "very strong" and said they confirmed that economic recovery was now "firmly embedded."
"Strong economic growth has resulted in job creation and a sharp fall in unemployment, which has declined by over six percentage points since its peak to 8.9% at present," he added.
"The government has laid the foundations for this economic recovery. But there is more to be done. The government will continue to work so that the benefits of economic recovery are widely distributed and that the unemployment rate is reduced further."
In its latest economic forecasts, the European Commission estimated growth for Ireland this year would be 6%, much higher than its forecasts for the EU overall at 1.9% and 1.6% in the eurozone.
A general election to be held in Ireland next spring is expected to largely focus on the economy, with the current coalition government already campaigning for a new mandate to "secure the recovery."
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015