An EU diplomat has said it will be 'an uphill struggle' for Ireland to secure lower interest rates on its bailout loans.

The source said the issue of interest rates was 'not at the top of the agenda' as EU finance ministers from eurozone countries and beyond met in Brussels.

Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan placed the issue on the agenda at last night's meeting of eurozone finance ministers, but there has been no indication that other member states are ready to support the idea.

Mr Lenihan admitted on RTÉ's News at One today that it would take 'hard, relentless, persistent work...' to push the matter forward.

The issue is being seen in the context of two parallel processes which are part of the EU's continuing attempts to overcome Europe's sovereign debt crisis.

There are moves, promoted by the European Commission and the ECB, to beef up the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), which represents €440bn of the total €750bn rescue fund.

Both the Commission and the ECB want to see it increased in size, and adapted so it can provide emergency support other than simply bailouts, for example buying up government bonds, or extending credit lines to countries which are abiding by fiscal rules, but which are having difficulty in accessing funding on the open market.

Secondly, the EU is in a process of formalising and making permanent the rescue fund when the current temporary mechanism runs out mid 2013.

The new fund will be known as the European Stability Mechanism (ESM).

Both processes are seen as interconnected, with ministers expecting to reach some kind of final agreement by the time EU leaders gather for their spring summit at the end of March.

The Irish Government is hoping that, as part of any potential refitting of the various mechanisms, there may be scope for a small reduction in the interest rates.

It is understood the Government is arguing that the higher the interest rate Ireland has to pay, then the more difficult the task of meeting our fiscal targets of reducing the budget deficit to 3% by 2015 at the latest.

There is also an argument that charging a punitive or dissuasive margin is politically difficult to sell to an electorate.

Officials are aware that there could be strong opposition to lowering the interest rate from countries like Germany, which has always maintained that a bailout should be an absolute last resort.

Germany could argue that lowering the interest rate will simply make accessing the fund - which Germany is largely under-writing - more attractive.

Ireland will pay roughly 5.8% interest on average for the loans which will be issued by the IMF, the EFSF, and thirdly, the European Financial Stability Mechanism, which comes from the EU's own resources.