Cowen: I was not forced into issuing consensus invite

Cowen: I was not forced into issuing consensus invite

Taoiseach Brian Cown has rejected suggestions that the Green Party forced him into writing a letter to Opposition leaders inviting them to talks on an economic consensus.

Mr Cowen has also denied he was annoyed with the junior coalition partner for initially discussing the issue with Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, and then going public, without having informed him first.

Fine Gael has agreed to attend the meeting while Labour intends to respond later.

Mr Cowen is adamant the reason he sent the letter was to be absolutely sure everybody understood his position, after comments he made in the Dáil on Tuesday in which he appeared to be less than enthusiastic about the idea were reported in the media.

"When I saw some of the headlines yesterday morning after I spoke in the Dáil I felt it was important that… rather than people interpreting what I had to say in a certain way, I was making it clear in my letter," the Taoiseach said.

Enterprise Minister Batt O'Keefe also denied the invite was issued under pressure..

In the letter Mr Cowen said the country was facing "an extremely challenging time".

"Our people understand that this is not a time for business as usual, either in politics or in the economy," he wrote.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny welcomed what he called a "change in attitude and tone" from the Taoiseach on the matter, and agreed to attend the talks.

However Labour TD Pat Rabbitte described the move as a "ploy" by the Taoiseach to prolong the life of the Government, while it has also drawn the ire of Sinn Féin, who did not receive an invite to the talks table.

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