Four questions to answer before new government can be formed
The Government-making process involves four issues that must be resolved. Here they are in summary:
1 Will Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil lead a minority government?
It is more likely to be Fine Gael with 51 TDs' votes (50 FG plus Michael Lowry). But Fianna Fáil, with 43 TDs (44 minus Ceann Comhairle Sean Ó Fearghaíl) still has a notional chance.
That puts the spotlight upon the 15 out of 23 Independents who engaged in government talks.
2 Why can Fianna Fáil not accept they don't have enough numbers and cede to Fine Gael?
With an original gap of just seven TDs behind Fine Gael when all votes were counted, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin had to be seen to be seriously chasing government leadership.
By now a declaration from the Independents would help Fianna Fáil to gracefully withdraw.
3 So, which side will these 15 Independents pick?
They look set to pick different sides or abstain. It is unlikely that enough will side with Fianna Fáil to offset Fine Gael's eight-vote lead.
Independents say they are awaiting the outcome of Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil talks before they publicly declare.
But these talks in turn depend a lot on the Independents' stance.
4 What of the other 'non-combatants' in government-making?
Sinn Féin's 23 TDs, the six AAA-PBP deputies, and seven Independents are set for Opposition. The seven Labour TDs, three Social Democrats, and two Green Party TDs, have stood back.
But this trio of parties, totalling 12 TDs, could still play a role by selective voting or abstaining.
Fine Gael especially hope they can get help from some or all of these.
- Read more: Martin's ultimatum: vote for me today or be stuck with Kenny
- Read more: Independent TD 'very disappointed' at FF-FG behaviour
- Read more: Kevin Doyle: It's been 'keep calm and carry on' till now - but FF leader has raised the stakes
- Read more: The Dáil must change utterly if we're to have any hope of a stable minority government
- Read more: Unions in warning to Fianna Fáil over Irish Water jobs