IRELAND is on the brink of another deal to ease the burden of its crushing debt.
Eurozone finance ministers have agreed in principle to extend the repayment deadline on bailout loans.
"This is something (Finance Minister) Michael Noonan has been working on for months. The basic idea is to extend the maturity of the almost €40bn loans that have been provided by Europe as part of the emergency package," Jobs Minister Richard Bruton said today.
"If we get an extension of that maturity... it would be a very good deal for the taxpayer. It would take a lot of the pressure off having to go back to the market early to raise funds," he added.
A deal would add to pressure on the Government to hit people with a softer budget for next year.
It comes following intensive lobbying efforts by the Irish and Portuguese governments.
The 27 EU finance ministers were discussing the issue at a meeting today and final approval is expected to be reached at an EU ministerial meeting in Dublin next month.
It comes just weeks after a deal struck on the promissory note debt.
The new proposals relate to a separate part of Ireland's debt – €40.2bn from the EU as part of the bailout agreed in 2010.
Mr Bruton added: "You don't count your chickens before they're hatched. Michael (Noonan) has been systematically working on this and I think people recognise that it's important for Europe that countries like Ireland and Portugal are able to get back into the markets at the end of the due period and the omens have been very good for that.
"We've renegotiated the promissory note and this will be another element that will give stability."
EU Economic Commissioner Olli Rehn said he expected an arrangement to be concluded by next month's meeting of finance ministers in Dublin.
While agreement has been reached in principle, technical details of how the extension of maturities will be implemented have yet to be worked out.
Mr Noonan said, while Ireland was seeking an average extension of 15 years, this was unlikely to gain support.
The EU contributed to Ireland's bailout through a combination of European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism loans and loans from the eurozone's European Financial Stability Facility temporary bailout fund.
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