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Labor accepts Cowen's invitation

Labor Party leader Eamon Gilmore has said he will accept an invitation from the Taoiseach Brian Cowen, to opposition parties to meet to discuss reaching consensus on the economy.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Gilmore said, however, that no-one should expect consensus on the next budget.

He added that any four-year budgetary plan would not be credible because the government has no mandate until 2014.

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Meanwhile, the taoiseach has rejected the suggestion that he has done a U-turn on reaching consensus with political opponents on the economy.

Cowen said he has always been open to discussing the economy with other political parties.

Fine Gael has said it will respond positively to the invitation from the taoiseach to discuss the economy.

Speaking this afternoon, Cowen said consensus would be helpful and would send a positive message to the international community that politicians here had a common approach to our difficulties.

Asked if he was upset that the Green Party had stolen a march on him by publicly supporting a political consensus first, he said as a party they were entitled to take positions on such matter.

Reacting to Sinn Féin criticism that they had not been invited to participate in the process, Cowen said the party have made it clear they do not subscribe to requirements to reduce the deficit to 3% by 2014.

Taoiseach said because of that, there is basis on which to reach a common to solution to the problem with them

Sinn Féin's Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said it was an absolute disgrace that the Taoiseach's invitation was not extended to his party.

Ó Caoláin said Fine Gael and Labor are complicit in the exclusion of Sinn Féin and the Independents.

Cowen confirmed that Fine Gael and Labor will be briefed by the Department of Finance early next week.

There was a cautious welcome in the Seanad for the response from the Opposition.

Fine Gael's Liam Toomey said it would be with gritted teeth that his party would enter talks with the government parties.