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New IMF chief Lagarde hints at fair play for Ireland

Christine Lagarde, the new head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has hinted that Ireland could get a fairer deal with her in the driving seat.

In her maiden address as head of the IMF, she said: “For the fund to be credible, its analysis, its work, needs to be candid, needs to be credible, needs to be even-handed.

“There is no one category of country that deserves special treatment and another one that will receive harsh treatment."

Political sources suggested that this could mean an easier ride for Ireland as we negotiate a lower interest rate on the €67.5bn EU/IMF bailout loans and the retention of our low 12.5pc corporation tax rate – which is a bugbear of French Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy who was until recently Ms Lagarde’s boss.

Greece is already on the way to a second bailout and Portugal could be going in the same direction but diplomatic advances by Irish politicians in Brussels seem to have gone unnoticed.

An EU/IMF team is currently in Dublin assessing Ireland’s progress under the programme.

“This could be good news for us but it’s a bit early to say it,” said one source.

The former French finance minister also highlighted “the three C’s” necessary for the IMF going forward – credible, connected and comprehensive.

Ms Lagarde also said she wanted to improve diversity at the organisation and promised to give emerging markets more sway at the IMF.

She pledged to push ahead with reforms to give emerging markets greater sway at the international lender.

"The world is going to continue to change," she said.

She also said she would complete a training programme on ethics.

Her predecessor Dominique Strauss-Kahn quit to fight sexual assault charges in the US which are expected to be dropped shortly.

But the former French finance minister is faced with big challenges in Europe with Greece heading for a second bailout and a growing risk that Portugal is heading in the same direction.

“I hope that the Greek political parties altogether can be rightly inspired by the courageous decisions made by the political parties in Ireland, the courageous decisions made by political parties in Portugal,” she added.

“There comes a time when individual interests, political rivalries should be set aside, when it's in the national interest of the country and that was clearly demonstrated both in the case of Ireland and Portugal."