Taoiseach Brian Cowen has written to the leaders of the main Opposition parties, inviting them to talks on establishing a consensus on the economy.

Brian Cowen's move follows nearly a week of controversy over a similar invitation from Green Party leader John Gormley.

Earlier, comments from Mr Cowen were interpreted as being cool on the proposal.

In the Dáil yesterday, he said he had no objection to talks that might follow Department of Finance briefings for the Opposition but that the Government had a duty to govern.

Today, Fine Gael Finance Spokesman Michael Noonan interpreted that response as rejecting Mr Gormley's initiative.

He claimed that Fianna Fáil was not serious about overtures to the opposition on building an economic consensus.

Michael Noonan said the Taoiseach had rejected Green Party leader John Gormley's proposal in the Dáil yesterday.

He also claimed that Brian Lenihan had two voices on the issue, supporting the need for a consensus when at home but ridiculing the concept when interviewed in the US on Bloomberg Television.

Mr Noonan was speaking after meeting officials of the Department of Finance to agree a process for briefings on the economic situation.

He said Fine Gael was happy with the protocol put forward and looked forward to further meetings this week.

In today's letter, Mr Cowen said as proposed by John Gormley he would like to explore the extent to which cross-party consensus could be achieved on a realistic approach to putting the public finances on a sustainable footing