Taoiseach insists deal in offing but stays tight-lipped on detail
TAOISEACH Enda Kenny last night insisted he was back on track in getting a cut in the bailout interest rate.
But he admitted he was concerned about the worsening situation in Greece having knock-on effects for Ireland.
Mr Kenny is "more hopeful" of an interest rate cut on the Irish bailout after his talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Talks will continue between Irish and French officials on the bailout.
Coalition sources indicated an agreement on tight budgetary rules -- which the Government would agree in return for the interest rate cut -- was being worked on.
But the Taoiseach refused to say what was being discussed between the two sides and dodged questions on whether the Irish corporate tax base was on the table.
Mr Kenny said he had a "convivial meeting" with Mr Sarkozy.
"We discussed a range of issues. The delay in Ireland achieving or being awarded its reduction in interest rates arises from a request we should increase our corporate tax rate.
"Obviously we are not going to do that and we have made that perfectly clear," he said.
"We agreed... that both teams should continue to discuss this matter and I hope we can arrive at a conclusion before too long," he added.
But Mr Kenny would merely say officials were discussing "a variety of options" and Ireland maintained a "clear, non-moveable" position on corporation tax.
The Taoiseach played down suggestions that the Government was softening its stance on EU-wide tax consolidation measures.
The summit agreed countries would report back on European Commission proposals for common tax rules, the Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCTB).
"We are prepared to discuss any papers that come from the Commission.
"But in respect of CCCTB, I have already made our view very clear that we regard this with a healthy scepticism and it is in that context that we will participate in the discussions," he said.
Mr Kenny said there was a recognition around the summit table that a negative outcome to votes on the passing of cutback packages in Greece would be a disaster for Europe.
He said a deterioration of the situation in Greece would "trigger all sorts of consequences".
He said if "anything untoward" were to happen in Greece it was imperative "that others should not be blown sideways".
Mr Kenny said he told EU colleagues he didn't want to see Ireland suffering if the situation in Greece worsened.
"I made it perfectly clear to the Council that in no circumstances did I want a situation where if anything untoward were to happen in the case of Greece that that would have serious consequences for Ireland.
"And I made the point that a country like ours, which is now measuring up, has to be protected in the event of anything untoward happening in the case of Greece and that clarification was given," he said.
However, Mr Kenny did not provide any detail of precisely what reassurances he received from his EU colleagues on Ireland's status in the event of a Greek failure.
EU leaders have agreed a second bailout for Greece that its prime minister says will stave off default and rescue the country from the clutches of the financial markets.