Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are working towards putting a deal for a minority government to Independents early next week, but expect that a final pact will not be ready until later this month.
Binding reviews of a pact between the two parties and how they will interact are expected to form part of a document that could be completed by Monday. This will be the structure under which a minority government could work.
The two sides will only then negotiate policy differences, including over water charges and the future of the universal social charge.
Informed sources say a document could be ready to hand over to Independents, needed to support a minority government, and others such as Labour or the Greens by early next week.
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, though, was more optimistic: “If both sides approach this with a view of doing what’s best for the country, then we can have a government by the middle of next week.”
Nonetheless, it is unlikely all sides will have agreed positions for another vote for taoiseach until the following week, say sources.
Enda Kenny and Micheál Martin spoke by phone yesterday before their teams resumed talks. Sources said the talks proved the “game playing” had stopped.
“We are working on the mechanics of government. How both parties interact on a weekly or monthly basis. This could be finished by Monday, then its onto policy,” said a source.
However, key stumbling blocks remain. Mr Kenny needs the support of at least six more Independents.
There are also mixed views over whether any minority pact should be in writing or instead act as a ‘guide’ whereby Fianna Fáil can support policies on a case-by-case basis.
Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe insisted that a written deal was “an absolute must”, an opinion backed by Independents.
Two hours of talks between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil were described as “constructive”, and while contact will continue this weekend, face-to-face negotiations will resume Monday.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that Fine Gael reached a crisis point on Wednesday night and negotiators scrambled to contact Independents through the night amid fear that Mr Kenny might lose the vote.
“We were under pressure. Micheál probably doesn’t realise how close he came to winning the thing. We worked up until 2am trying to ensure we stayed ahead,” a Fine Gael source said.
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