EC Summit: Luck of the Irish lifts Reynolds

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DUBLIN - Albert Reynolds' success in returning from Edinburgh with more than he had ever hoped for in EC aid could provide the kiss of life for his threatened leadership of the Fianna Fail party.

But opponents made clear yesterday the reflected glory will not stop backbenchers and ministers he sacked last February from drawing their daggers against him in the wake of his recent general election defeat.

Mr Reynolds appeared deeply alarmed in Edinburgh when, for a time, agreement on the EC budget seemed to be slipping beyond reach. A return to Dublin without his much vaunted Ir pounds 6bn ( pounds 6.4bn) target would have made his demise all but certain. He declared the final deal 'the single greatest achievement' of his period in office, even though the package that doubles EC structural fund aid to Ireland over the next seven years was achieved primarily by the stubborn stand of the Spanish.

The Taoiseach could hardly believe his good luck afterwards. He had gone to Scotland with a negotiating position seeking Ir pounds 6bn over five years, and returned with a possible Ir pounds 8bn betwen now and the end of the century. He returned home yesterday to newspaper headlines 'Albert lands an pounds 8bn bonanza]' and 'EC aid: it's pounds 3m a day for 7 years'.

Mr Reynolds was last night holding exploratory talks with the Labour Party leader, Dick Spring, that could lead to him retaining the premier's job if a coalition arrangement emerges.