Cross-party talks 'within days'
Government and Opposition parties will come together to hammer out an agreement on multi-billion euro public spending cuts within days, Environment Minister John Gormley has claimed.
But Finance Minister Brian Lenihan ruled out any imminent possibility of a national government to steer the country through the worst economic crisis since the foundation of the State.
Mr Gormley said cross-party talks to seal consensus on how to slash the national deficit to 3% over the next four years are "already sorted".
The Green Party leader insisted Taoiseach Brian Cowen has signed up to the initiative after Finance Minister Brian Lenihan intervened and that Opposition leaders were open to a deal.
"[Mr Cowen] is on board, we've had a very positive intervention from the Minister for Finance and we are going in the right direction," he said. "I am very confident that by the end of next week we will have people in a room."
Referring to political consensus in Finland to overcome recession, he added: "I've been in contact with the leaders of the other political parties and I believe that we will have the sort of consensus that happened in Finland."
Ireland is "on the ropes" and it can no longer be politics as usual, because it is not business as usual, said Mr Gormley.
After opening the Department of Finance books to the Opposition, Mr Lenihan said developing a common analysis on the way forward would help a "united national effort" to secure jobs and growth.
While he accepted a cross-party forum could work if everyone agreed on the problem, he said a national government was not realistic. "It is clear that there isn't time to construct a national government by the middle of November," he said.
Earlier, prominent Fine Gael TD Brian Hayes claimed a national government made sense - but only after a general election.