Brian Lenihan: needs to put his best suit on as he visits major European capitals to counter dangerous reports about Irish bank deposit levels

Leading economists have called on finance minister Brian Lenihan to go on an international roadshow to counteract negative commentary in world capitals about Irish banks that threatens to wreck the Irish economy.

The calls came as reports circulated this weekend that up to €60bn left Irish domestic banks and banks based in the International Financial Services International (IFSC) over the past month.

Leading market sources confirmed that recent withdrawals were large, but were "significantly less" than the rumoured €60bn.

Alan Ahearne, economist at NUI Galway, said that in the early 1990s, as Sweden's banks and economy faced collapse, the country's finance minister took to the road to combat rumours that Sweden would fail to pay its debts as its banks faced collapse.

He was responding to research from a leading British bank issued last week that ranked the Irish economy as Europe's most fragile because it purportedly showed the liabilities of Irish banks amounted to 900% of Gross Domestic Product.

The statistics were "completely incorrect" because they encompass all the lenders in the IFSC which have no link to the Irish domestic economy or to the state guarantee, Ahearne said.

"These reports circulate around the world and they are inaccurate. It is important the government should mount a counter-offensive ," he said.

Less than two decades after the Swedes faced economic meltdown and its finance minister countered the worst international fears, international investors rate Sweden as one of the safest countries in the world to lend money to.

Rumours continued to swirl this weekend about the amount of corporate and savers' money withdrawn from the banks here in recent weeks.

Commentators say the withdrawals are not net figures and take no account of deposits flowing back into the banks. Withdrawals from the IFSC banks would also distort the figures.

Excluding deposits by government and financial firms, some €287bn was deposited in all Irish banks, Central Bank Of Ireland figures for December show.