The Taoiseach has come under sustained criticism in the Dáil from Opposition leaders, who claim the Government has misled the people over the question of negotiations with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

But Mr Cowen insisted there was no question of the Government being involved in discussions about an EU/IMF bailout.

Mr Cowen told the Dáil that such pejorative terms did not help the situation.

He said Ireland was working with its European partners on issues that were affecting the euro area and Ireland.

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Mr Cowen said discussions would take place this week but he could not predict the outcome of those talks.

In Leaders' Questions, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny asked the Taoiseach if he believed it was possible to move forward without a bailout. He said the banking policy of the Government had been a 'catastrophic failure'.

Mr Kenny said the IMF and European partners were not coming to say 'hello, keep at it, Brian', and that the arrival of the IMF would bring a set of strict conditions.

Mr Cowen defended the Government policy on the bank guarantee and told Labour leader Eamon Gilmore that his party's policy would have resulted in an implosion of the economy.

Mr Gilmore told the Taoiseach there was no point in pretending that tomorrow's discussions were 'fact finding missions by PhD students'. He said the IMF were not coming to do their Christmas shopping.

He asked the Taoiseach what the Government's bottom line would be in negotiations.

Mr Cowen replied by telling Mr Gilmore he would not be a very intelligent man if he thought that giving away your bottom line before negotiations took place was a good idea.

The Taoiseach said the Government's objective was to ensure that the banking system is brought back to a position where it can access funds at reasonable prices.

Speaking later on RTÉ's Six-One News, Mr Cowen said there are no obvious solutions to Ireland's problems.

He said: 'There are sensible, precautionary discussions taking place at the moment. We're working collaboratively with people. I don't think we should see this as a threatening situation.

'There are no obvious solutions here until we work out what's best for the country.

'It's urgent, we accept it's urgent and we need to deal with it. We will deal with it in our own interests as well.'

Power criticises Govt approach

A Fianna Fáil backbencher has said the Government had failed the people by its inability to explain the current financial and economic situation.

Sean Power told the Dáil that his party often spoke about how educated the electorate was, yet then proceeded to treat people like fools.

Separately, Enterprise Minister Batt O'Keeffe said he wanted to make it clear that what he said over the weekend in relation to talks taking place about the banking crisis was that he had been 'unaware' of any talks taking place.

He said the same could be said of Minister Dermot Ahern.

Mr O'Keeffe said he understood that anything that was happening was part of the natural partnership approach with other countries.

Earlier today, Green Party chairman Dan Boyle raised new concerns about the latest economic developments in a post on social networking site Twitter.

Senator Boyle said: 'There is a questioning of trust and an adding to uncertainty that is making the basis for being in Government much more difficult.'