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Kenny pleads with French to back us on bank debt deal

ENDA Kenny travelled to Paris today in the hope that Francois Hollande will help spare his blushes over our bank debt negotiations.

The Taoiseach is hoping that after German Chancellor Angela Merkel eventuallly confirmed Ireland as a "special" case, the French leader will do likewise.

Government sources today revealed that Mr Kenny is specifically seeking a public statement of support from Mr Hollande -- hours after Angela Merkel rallied to his aid.

After causing a weekend of embarrassment for the Government, Ms Merkel last night agreed to a joint statement that suggests Ireland is on track to be handed some relief on its massive €64bn bank debt.

The Taoiseach is expected to lobby Mr Hollande on securing a better deal -- a move that could potentially save the Irish taxpayer billions of euro.

A well-placed Government source today said: "He will ask Mr Hollande to describe our plight as a 'special case' -- similar to what Ms Merkel did last night. If he can secure agreement for yet another statement backing our case, it will be seen as a massive political victory for the Taoiseach."

Another source said that the Taoiseach had an opportunity "to steal victory from the brink of defeat".

In an interview last week Mr Hollande outlined his views on austerity in Greece and Spain but failed to mention Ireland.

Today's meeting is the first one-on-one engagement between Mr Kenny and Mr Hollande since the French man was elected president in May.

The discussions will also focus on our preparations for holding the EU presidency as well as the wider developments in the eurozone debt crisis.

Last night's statement by Mr Kenny and Ms Merkel came after the German premier cast fresh doubt over our debt deal stating that EU money would only be used to deal with future banking problems.

Ireland is seeking that EU leaders agree to deal with our €64bn 'legacy' debt -- which has been saddled on the taxpayer by bailing out some of our banks.

Ministers were taken aback on Friday when Ms Merkel appeared to pour cold water on hopes of having our bank debt separated from our national debt.

However after a flurry of phone calls from the Taoiseach and his officials, Ms Merkel last night appeared to return to row back on the tough stance.

Separately, IMF official Ajai Chopra has said that Ireland is making "steady progress" and that the current pace of our austerity drive is "appropriate".