Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have formally entered into negotiations on a programme for government.
More than six weeks after the 2020 General Election, the two parties have agreed to begin the process of officially forming the next government.
In a joint statement, the parties said they both agree the need to form a “strong stable government” that will help Ireland recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“They are working to develop a Programme for Government that provides stability and a working majority in the Dáil,” it added.
The parties said they will meet in the coming days to draft a roadmap towards a new government while continuing to “reach out and engage with other parties”.
After the meeting a senior Fine Gael source said the party was “very firmly of the position” that the arrangement must involve an “absolute majority in the Dáil”.
“We are not open to a confidence and supply agreement of any description,” the source added.
Meanwhile, a Fianna Fáil source said there is “realisation” that the government’s authority is “diminish” after tomorrow’s vote on emergency legislation to tackle the coronavirus.
“That has focused the minds of everyone concerned,” the source added.
The talks are expected to last around two weeks and the two parties are planning to negotiate a programme for government which will focus on the Covid-19 emergency and the economic recovery once the national health crisis is over.
Both parties will continue to seek the support of the Green Party, other smaller parties and Independents to support their coalition government.