Despite his official position that the Irish must remain free to decide themselves on the steps to take following their negative vote on the new EU treaty, Sarkozy is reported to have told activists in his UMP party that "the Irish will have to vote again".
EU leaders are extremely wary of imposing any pre-cooked decisions on the Irish, fearing that even the best advice may turn out to be counterproductive. The EU Council notably decided to give the Irish until the next summit in October to propose a solution.
In the meantime, Sarkozy will be heading to Dublin on 21 July. His mission, in his own words, will be "to listen". Speaking in the European Parliament on 10 July, he nevertheless expressed his hope for "a solution, in agreement with the Irish government, in October or in December" (EurActiv 11/07/08).
Prime Minister Brian Cowen, who heard about Sarkozy's remarks during a visit to the USA, played down their significance. But those close to him were reported to be seething about Sarkozy's intervention.
The 'no' camp is expected to take Sarkozy's comments extremely seriously. Sinn Fein's Aengus O'Snodaigh said the French President's remarks were "deeply insulting" to the Irish people.
"In the month since the Irish people voted overwhelmingly to reject the Lisbon Treaty, we have listened to a succession of EU leaders lining up to try and bully and coerce us into doing what they want," he said.
Libertas leader and sponsor of the 'no' campaign Declan Ganley argued that if there is to be a second referendum in Ireland, then France and the Netherlands, which voted against the European Constitution, should also hold a second vote. Likewise, UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage said the French and Dutch should get the chance to their say if Ireland votes again.
In the meantime, the ratification process continued smoothly as Spain's Senate gave the final stamp of approval to the Lisbon Treaty.