A split in the Green Party over whether to enter coalition talks with Fianna Fail and Fine Gael is threatening efforts to form a new government and Eamon Ryan's leadership.
There is also growing anger in Fine Gael and Fianna Fail this weekend over the Greens' procrastination. Fine Gael ministers have slammed the Greens' climate demands, while a group of Fianna Fail senators have attacked the Greens' housing policies.
Mr Ryan is coming under pressure from deputy leader Catherine Martin whose attack on Fine Gael over its failure to commit to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 7pc per year is seen within the Green Party as evidence of an effort to undermine Mr Ryan, who wants to enter government talks with the Civil War parties.
Ms Martin said last Friday on RTE that comments by Tanaiste Simon Coveney, in which he cast doubt over the 7pc emissions reduction target, were "shocking" and "disturbing" and had set off "alarm bells" in her party. There is huge grassroots anger in the Greens over the possibility of the party entering talks with FF and FG.
The Sunday Independent understands Mr Ryan has spoken to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin in recent days to seek clarification on their commitment to the 7pc target. But his failure to seek clarification on the two parties' commitment to Green priorities on affordable housing and abolishing Direct Provision has annoyed some Green TDs.
"It's definitely not good," a senior Green Party source said of the divisions in the party this weekend. Mr Ryan's position in the party is at risk with Green Party rules stipulating it must hold a leadership election within six months of the general election.
The party's national executive is likely to open nominations for the leadership before the end of this month with a postal ballot members taking place over June and July. A decision on whether or not to enter formal talks with the civil war parties could come down to a vote of party's 16 TDs, Senators and MEPs with any decision requiring a two-thirds majority.It comes as Fine Gael ministers are increasingly pessimistic about forming a new government with the prospect of a second election now being discussed. However, the Covid-19 crisis presents serious logistical challenges for any such poll with most believing a vote would not be possible until September at the earliest.
One senior Fine Gael Minister hit out at the Greens. "Is any party allowed to hold the country to ransom over one policy? The country needs a government, there has to be a degree of give and take. This 'we're not even willing to sit down and talk unless you sign in blood up to this' that's not how mature political negotiations work, that's not how senior hurling works."
Business Minister Heather Humphreys said Fine Gael was anxious for the Greens to be part of a government that would be "ambitious in terms of our climate targets".
However she later told this newspaper: "In doing so we want to make sure we don't cause carnage".
A dozen outgoing Fine Gael junior ministers held a conference call last Friday where it was "unanimously" agreed that the 7pc target was not achievable for the agri sector, according to a source on the call. They said ministers were told that Fine Gael should be ready for a second election.
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe confirmed that two elements of the Government's Covid-19 rescue package for business will require legislation to be passed. But this cannot be done with the Seanad having 11 nominees from a newly-elected Taoiseach.
The Sunday Independent understands one option being floated at senior levels in Fine Gael is a technical solution whereby all parties or a majority agree to elect a Taoiseach for a day for the sole purpose of nominating 11 senators, agreed between them, to the upper house. This would then allow it to pass the legislation to help businesses during the pandemic. "It's a legal and constitutional possibility if there genuinely is a need to pass legislation and break the gridlock. But it really would have to be legislation that is essential not just desirable," a senior Fine Gael source said.
Fianna Fail TD Barry Cowen said a new government must be formed as soon in order to ensure that the extraordinary budget measures to deal with the crisis are funded. "The caretaker government or present Dail cannot pass such legislation or go beyond provisions of funding allocations made in Budget 2020.
"I'm not sure people - some political parties appear oblivious to the fact - realise how difficult and potentially dangerous a predicament that is or could be. Therefore whether we like it or not, parallel to caretaker governments ongoing efforts, a new government has to be formed as soon as possible."
He added: "For some entering government with Fianna Fail is a last resort, whether it's the same for us or whether we all have to hold our noses, so what. When you think of the solidarity and compliance of the last few weeks and what's now necessary you have to get the hell on with it."
Meanwhile, a group of Fianna Fail senators have criticised what they view as the Green Party's favouring of renting over home ownership.
The senators are also concerned that core Fianna Fail principles will be compromised in any coalition talks with the Greens.
Fianna Fail Senator Malcolm Byrne said: "We have always advocated affordable home ownership and it is an issue that differentiates us from others. It is particularly noticeable that the Greens seemed to move away from this and that several of their councillors and activists are tweeting against the principle of home ownership or the use of public lands for affordable home ownership programmes.
A number of Fianna Fail senators have made clear that any Programme for Government must have a clear commitment to a major affordable home building programme.
Fianna Fail Senator Pat Casey said home ownership is a "core principle" for Fianna Fail. "It would be one of our key principles whereas we believe the Greens would be more accepting of the cost-rental model," he said.
"We need to assert our core principles, as identified in our manifesto, on these negotiations as opposed to being told what everyone else's core principles are and us having to adhere to them. Housing is one of the key ones."
Another senator, Fiona O'Loughlin said: "To see a situation where any political party would say that renting is more of an option is not good enough and I think that needs to be a priority for any party going into government.
Mr Byrne also said Fianna Fail members must be given a vote on any programme for government that is agreed.