Taoiseach Brian Cowen has said he would welcome a political consensus on the budgetary measures needed to get the economic situation under control.

However, he said it was up to the Opposition parties to put forward suggestions if they wished to do so, and the Government would then consider them.

Mr Cowen said there was work which was the duty of Government to undertake.

Mr Cowen said the Opposition were being given briefings by the Department of Finance, and if any suggestions emerged that required further discussion he had no problem with it.

The Taoiseach was speaking after discussing the issue with the Green Party leader John Gormley.

Speaking on RTÉ’s News At One, Mr Gormley called for the parties to get together to try to find an all-party consensus on a four-year budget plan.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said his party would be prepared to talk to anybody in the national interest.

He said talk of a national consensus was an attempt to keep Fianna Fáil in power, but the party had to be put out of Government.

Mr Gormley said he wanted the parties to meet as soon as possible about plans to bring the deficit to below 3% of Gross Domestic Product by 2014.

The Government is due to publish its four-year budgetary plan next month.

Mr Gormley said the economic situation was now 'so grave' that it was incumbent on all the political parties to come together, despite their political differences.

He said he was not looking for a 'blank cheque' from the Opposition parties, but said consensus was now urgently required.

The Minster for the Environment said he believed that was what the European Commission was now looking for.

Mr Gormley's comments came after European Central Bank President Jean Claude Trichet stressed the importance of the Government taking steps to fix the public finances.

Sinn Féin's Aengus Ó Snodaigh said that the idea of some type of national consensus could be looked at, but only after a General Election.

He said the Government was only looking for consensus now after they had made 'a hames of the economy'.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Eamon Ryan said there was a need for a consensus approach to politics at present.

Fine Gael TD Leo Varadkar said his party was open to the possibility of taking part in a national consensus on the four-year budget plan.

However, Mr Varadkar said there were major problems with the proposed initiative and he would rather have a public debate on the crisis.

Elsewhere, the Minister for Social Protection Éamon Ó Cuív hosted a pre-budget forum in Dublin for 29 organisations, including charities and support groups.

Representatives from the organisations outlined their priority issues from pre-Budget submissions, relating to social welfare schemes.

Age Action said that any Budget decisions must protect the most vulnerable in society.

It said: 'The economic crisis cannot be used as a reason to abandon the most vulnerable of older people who are dependent on the State for their quality of life.'