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Are the French being Bastilles?

The words “French resistance” are taking on a whole new meaning of late.

And if there was a time when the Irish would look to France for comfort and support in the never ending battle against English domination and interference, that time has passed.

Indeed, most Irish who give a thought to the French these days will be tempted to dismiss the near neighbors as being little more than a shower of Bastilles.

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That’s because Paris is putting up the stiffest resistance to Irish wishes for a break on the interest rate that it is having to pay on the €67.5 billion ($85 billion) bailout that is supposedly standing between Ireland and a fate worse than, well, Greece.

According to an Irish Independent report, Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the Dáil last week that he will arrange a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy “if and when it is appropriate,” this as France’s resistance to Dublin’s desired one percent rate reduction apparently deepens.

Ireland is paying close to six percent interest, while Greece and Portugal are paying closer to five percent as part of their bailout deals.

When pressed on the matter by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, an exasperated Mr. Kenny retorted: “What do you want me to do? Ring up the Elysee and say I am here and I want to talk to you?”

The Irish Examiner reported, meanwhile, that people close to the efforts to convince President Sarkozy to agree to the rate cut saw the French as digging in and prepared to use their veto should other parties to the bailout agree to a reduction.

A sticking point is Dublin’s insistence that it will retain its low 12.5 percent corporate tax rate despite France’s desire to see it raised.

The Examiner report stated that Finance Minister Michael Noonan had told the French he would not concede on corporation tax, saying it was responsible for Ireland’s export-led growth.

Noonan, indeed, was willing to forego the saving on interest repayments, estimated between €148 million and €200 million a year.

“I will not be waltzed around by any member state, especially when the gain is so small in contrast to the potential industrial promotion,” Noonan told the Dáil.

“The value of the reduction is being exaggerated and, in my view, too much is being made of this. There is no way whatsoever that I will negotiate with anyone in the French government to concede anything on the Irish corporation tax rate for that amount of money,” said Noonan, who took much the same line during his recent visit to New York and Washington.