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A struggle for consensus

Consensus is generally regarded as achieving broad unanimity -- or widespread agreement among all the members of a group.

This being the case, it seems surprising that Green leader John Gormley would have embarked on an initiative to secure it without first informing his senior partner in the Government.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen has been less than enthusiastic in embracing Mr Gormley's proposal. The opposition were equally non-committal. Busy enjoying the schadenfreude of seeing Mr Gormley's discomfort as he dangled in mid-air waiting for someone to spare his blushes, they have now moved towards giving his proposal consideration.

Mr Cowen's belated letter to the all parties inviting them to talks should not be dismissed, despite its puzzling timing. The bond markets are looking for signals that we are capable of rising to meet the challenges.

If there is any true consensus about anything in politics at the moment, it is that we are in the teeth of the gravest economic crisis since the foundation of the State.

One might then expect that any 'initiatives' would be tested, and discussed, with all parties before being released to the media.

Framing a four-year Budget to steer us through the economic rapids that lie ahead is a formidable task. The more agreement that can be obtained the better.

Ultimately it will be the taxpayers of this country who will shoulder the responsibility.

We have seen the cacophony of derision and doubt that was provoked by the mere mention of 'consensus'. In true Irish-style we have had the 'split' as the first order of business. What we now need to see is some genuine leadership and direction.