Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem has said he hopes an agreement will be reached by EU finance ministers tomorrow to give Ireland more time to repay its bailout loans.
Mr Dijsselbloem, who is president of the influential Eurogroup of Eurozone finance ministers, said he and his colleagues had briefly discussed proposals to extend the maturity of Ireland's bailout loans twice previously.
Such a move would ease Ireland's repayment schedule and help with its return to the markets.
Speaking at University College Cork, Mr Dijsselbloem said there had been "a positive attitude" towards examining the proposals among his colleagues.
He confirmed that extending the maturity of the loans by an average of seven years was one of the proposals being examined, and he said he hoped that there would be an outcome tomorrow that would be helpful to both Ireland and Portugal.
He said there was "one concrete proposal on the table" and this would be discussed in more detail tomorrow.
Mr Dijsselbloem spent some time studying at UCC in the early 1990s as part of his master's degree in business economics.
His return today followed an invitation from college president, Dr Michael Murphy, ahead of tomorrow's Eurogroup and Ecofin meetings.
Mr Dijsselbloem said Ireland was meeting all its goals under the bailout programme and was doing very well.
He said it was important not only for Ireland but for the Eurozone too that Ireland could exit the bailout programme, perhaps by the end of the year, and if extending the maturity of its bailout loans could help, then that should be examined.
He said he was optimistic that Ireland could return to the markets by the end of the year.
Mr Dijsselbloem said the ECB, the European Commission and the IMF made a proposal for a seven-year extension, which is now under discussion.
"I hope that we will be able to finalise that tomorrow," he said, referring to the meeting of euro zone finance ministers tomorrow in Dublin Castle.
The average maturity of the overall loans to Ireland is 12 and a half years and to Portugal between 12 and 14 and a half years depending on which EU fund provided the money. Ireland is to return to full market financing late this year and Portugal in 2014.
He singled out Spain as a country that could show a strong rebound.
"A meaningful recovery is not yet to be expected across the euro zone until the end of this year and there will remain significant differences between different member states," he said.
"Spain has the potential to become one of the economic engines of the euro zone. I would not be surprised if Spain is going to surprise us all by showing a very strong economic recovery".
Speaking about reports that Ireland may get an extension to the repayment period for the bailout loans, the Taoiseach has said there should be an accommodation made tomorrow at an informal meeting of finance ministers in Dublin that will be of benefit to Ireland and to Portugal.
Enda Kenny dismissed the idea that such an agreement would amount to a second bailout.
He said the matter has been pursued for some time and Portugal had tabled a motion at the start of the Irish Presidency for an extension of maturities as was applied to Greece.