Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan has said that it is clear Ireland will need some sort of external assistance to address the problems in the banking sector.

Mr Lenihan said officials from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union were not in Dublin to direct Irish affairs, but to offer advice on the four-year budgetary plan and the banking sector.

Speaking on RTÉ's Six-One News, he said he felt no sense of shame in fighting for the country's interests.

Earlier, the Minister told the Dáil that if a substantial contingency fund arose from talks with the IMF and the EU it would be a 'very desirable outcome'.

However, Brian Lenihan said that they were not at that point yet.

He also confirmed that he will lead negotiations with the IMF and European officials.

Mr Lenihan told Labour's Joan Burton that officials of his department were conducting the talks, assisted by officials from the National Treasury Management Agency, subject to his direction.

The Finance Minister said the IMF, ECB and the European Commission were in Dublin to look at what shape a financial package might take.

Ireland's problems did not relate to budgetary matters, he said, but they were problems of a structural nature in the banking sector.

He said he understood the focus of the discussions would be providing capital or a contingency capital fund that can stand behind the banks, as distinct from liquidity.

Ireland would likely be borrowing money at rates above those available from the European Central Bank, as part of accessing the fund, the minister told Labour's Pat Rabbitte.

Mr Lenihan told Sinn Féin's Arthur Morgan that the discussions would not be dragged out as they were urgent.

The talks could be completed before the Budget, according to Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport Mary Hanafin.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio's News At One, Ms Hanafin said a contingency fund may be one of the options being examined.

She said the Government's aim was to protect the taxpayer and that a resolution would not be at any cost.

Meanwhile, Ireland's 12.5% corporate tax rate was not up for negotiation as part of the talks with IMF and EU officials, said Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Innovation Batt O'Keeffe.

The rate was fundamental to Ireland's economic and enterprise culture, he added.

Bank guarantee

Mr Lenihan again defended the bank guarantee saying the governor had defended it this morning and the European finance ministers have agreed it was the correct strategy at the time.

The minister has moved to reassure the public that all deposits in Irish banks are 'safe and secure'.

He said it had been extended by a vote of the House yesterday.

Fine Gael's Finance Spokesman described the Government's banking strategy as 'disastrous' and accused it of pursuing it in the teeth of opposition.

Michael Noonan said the Government was an embarrassment to the Irish people and the Governor of the Central Bank felt the onus to come out and explain to the Irish people what was happening.

He called for those who lent recklessly to share the burden of the cost of the banking woes.

He said we now had an answer to the New York Times' editorial question - 'Could a bank bring down a country?'.

Mr Noonan welcomed the minister's clarification on the banking guarantee, saying he had been contacted by constituents asking him if they should open sterling accounts and move their money.

He accused the minister of moving his position on negotiations with holders of senior debt saying the minister initially indicated legal advice had informed him that they could not be negotiated with. That position was now changing, he said.

Speaking on RTÉ's Drivetime programme this evening, Fianna Fáil TD Ned O'Keeffe called on the Minister for Finance to resign, saying Mr Lenihan was not doing his job.