Labour leader Eamon Gilmore today demanded the Taoiseach resign in the national interest claiming Ireland had suffered its blackest week since the Civil War.
As formal talks begin in Dublin with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European officials, Mr Gilmore said the Government has no authority to strike a deal on a bailout loan.
"(Taoiseach) Brian Cowen continues to cling to power and his attitude seems to be that if Fianna Fail is going down, the country is going down with it," the Labour chief said.
Mr Gilmore accused Mr Cowen and his coalition Government of laying waste to the economy.
"If he will do the honourable thing, an election could be held by the second week in December. A new government, with a fresh mandate, would be in place before Christmas," he said.
"In the meantime, discussions or negotiations with the EU and the IMF could continue with their preliminary work, but any final agreement would be a matter for a new government.
"Apart from any other consideration, this government has neither the moral or political authority to make decisions that will have such an impact on the direction of this country for many years to come.
"Only a general election and a new government can now save the country."
The Government has faced increasing demands to dissolve the Dail (parliament) this week after the IMF and EU confirmed their plans to inspect the country's indebted finances.
Government ministers had repeatedly denied talks with the institutions had been going on, with one minister describing the suggestion as fiction.
Labour accused Fianna Fail of systematically lying over the extent of the crisis and the nature of contacts with Europe and the IMF over the past 10 days.
Mr Gilmore said the Fianna Fail-Green coalition was "demoralised, discredited and politically dishevelled".
"Any government in any other democratic country that had laid waste to an economy in the way Fianna Fail has and delivered the country into the hands of the IMF would now be long gone," he said.
"Mr Cowen and his government must now resign."
Sinn Fein backed the call.
The party's Dail leader, Caoimhghin O Caolain, said IMF intervention could lead to savage cuts in health and education, public service jobs, social welfare, tax increases for the lower paid and the selling off of State assets.
"This country is facing one of the greatest crises in our history and we have a Taoiseach and a Cabinet who spent the last week trying to deceive the Irish people," Mr O Caolain said.
"The Taoiseach and his Fianna Fail/Green Government should resign in shame.
"The intervention of the IMF is a disaster for Ireland, brought about directly by the scandalous policies of this Government.
"An EU/IMF bail-out will not be a bail-out for the Irish people. It will be a further bail-out for the banks but the Irish people will have to pay the price."
Sinn Fein earlier this week topped an opinion poll for next week's Donegal South West by-election.
Press Association / Irish Independent.