Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar have signed off on a historic agreement which has paved the way to Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael enter into a coalition government for the first time in the history of the State. The first stepping stone in forming a 'Grand Coalition' has been the negotiation of a policy framework document which the parties have agreed over the past three weeks. Here are the 10 things you need to know about the deal so far.
1) The Document
The document is not a programme for government and both sides are eager to point out that the agreement is not a fait accompli by any means. The hope is that smaller parties and Independent TDs will review the proposal and those interested in entering government will put forward their own policies which will be included in the final document.
2) Detail and costings
There is purposely a lack of details and costings in the document as it is a set of objectives rather than a fully budgeted plan of action. Those involved in the talks say in-depth policy papers have been written on each aspect of the document which can be turned to when they decide what specific actions will be taken.
3) Covid-19 emergency
The parties agree that responding to and recovering from the national health crisis will be the main focus of the next government's time. They have committed to drafting a national recovery plan which will ensure the economy bounces back as soon as possible once the coronavirus has been defeated. It will aim to address all sectors affected by the social-distancing regulations introduced to limit the spread of the virus.
4) Health Service
There is a commitment to speed up plans to remove private practices from public hospitals and move towards a one-tier health service. There is also commitment to retain some of the changes to the health service which have been implemented over the course of the current public health crisis.
Major pledges are being made to resolve the housing crisis with a renewed emphasis on providing affordable housing and a commitment to build 60,000 social housing units over the next five years. The Land Development Agency will be given new powers to build affordable and public housing. There are also commitments to hold referendums, if necessary, to reduce the cost of land. The document also commits to a "new deal" for renters.
6) Climate Change
The parties recognise that environmental issues were a key concern among some voters during the last election and they will commit to taking radical action to reduce emissions over the coming years in line with EU regulations.
A State-run childcare scheme is being proposed or at least a pilot version. Those involved in talks have spoken about the government playing a great role in people's lives and providing more State-run services.
8) Other issues
There is also a commitment to introduce a living wage and draw up a new social contract. There are also pledges to address issues facing younger voters such as college fees.
9) Selling the deal
Mr Martin and Mr Varadkar will give the document to their parliamentary parties to debate tomorrow. The approval of TDs and senators will be key to selling the deal to the membership of both parties.
10) Finding a third party
Once Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael TDs sign off on the document it will be presented to smaller parties and Independents interested in forming a government, apart from Sinn Féin. Those expected to get the document include the Green Party, the Labour Party, the Social Democrats and the Regional Technical Group of Independent TDs.