The more Leo Varadkar heard from his new Fianna Fail Cabinet colleagues, the more concerned he became.
As Michael McGrath, Dara Calleary and Stephen Donnelly, the Health Minister, took to the airwaves earlier last week to clarify foreign travel advice ahead of the publication of a green list, they appeared to succeed only in muddling the government message further. As Varadkar later said: "Ministers were doing interviews and predicting what the decision might be."
The kicker came last Monday afternoon when Donnelly took the unusual step as a senior minister to do a clip with RTE on the plinth at Leinster House - instead of the courtyard in Government Buildings. He, in effect, said that irrespective of the imminent green list the advice was that no one should travel abroad unless for essential reasons.
This rang alarm bells in Fine Gael. Varadkar and Donnelly's predecessor Simon Harris had repeatedly communicated last month that the list would include countries where the virus was at a similar or lower rate than in Ireland - raising the prospect in the public's mind of foreign holidays being on the table this year.
Now, according to a senior Fine Gael figure, "it looked like there was going to be a different rule for Irish people".
Donnelly was not actually saying this, but it was typical of the confusion in the air.
Never one to shy away from speaking his mind, the new Tanaiste issued a statement effectively rebuking the ministers for giving mixed "messages about international travel" and casting doubt on whether the Government should publish a green list at all.
Just as Varadkar appeared to be trying to clean up a Fianna Fail-made mess last Tuesday morning, Taoiseach Micheal Martin was flying back from Brussels where he had helped broker an EU stimulus package that should net Ireland €5bn to deal with Covid and Brexit in the coming years.
"The optics of the week are s**te, there's no doubt about that," a senior Fianna Fail minister admitted later.
Martin, already the subject of much disquiet in his own ranks, will have learned last week that he has to find a way to manage a relationship with his Tanaiste that is without precedent. The Fine Gael leader will succeed his Fianna Fail counterpart in just over two years' time but in the interim will serve as the second most prominent and important figure in the Government. It is already noted by Fianna Fail privately that the Tanaiste is assembling a sizable operation in Government Buildings.
"His operation is the same as the Taoiseach's, it's going to have to be managed," said one Martin ally, who added that the Taoiseach will have to "count to 10 a lot" when Varadkar makes public pronouncements that appear to conflict with Fianna Fail. "Maybe even 20."
For the general public the sight of both Martin and Varadkar conducting a media blitz to sell the July stimulus package last Thursday and Friday will have done nothing to counter the view that they are effectively co-taoisigh. There is no easy way to shift this perception among the public.
Some Fianna Fail TDs argue Varadkar should have taken a back seat in the first few months of the new Government. "I don't think people were too impressed with Leo the last few days. He is still front and centre of things," said one backbencher.
Most Taoisigh are categorised as either a chairman or a chief. Varadkar was considered a chief, drilling into the detail of various policies, setting ministers clear tasks, assiduously following up, and probing issues around the Cabinet table.
Enda Kenny was viewed more as a chairman who was happy to delegate, let his ministers get on with their work programme and report back every so often, only intervening when a crisis took hold. Cabinet meetings were more business-like than the sort of open discussions that Varadkar encouraged. Some in Fine Gael believe Martin will operate as Kenny did, with one FG minister describing his approach at Cabinet thus far as "much more low-key and much more in the chairman space".
But there is evidence to suggest Martin is far from the aloof chairman of the board. He has taken personal charge of reopening the schools from the end of August, showing up at the Department of Education last Friday morning to get an update on the plan. "Micheal is obsessed with education and always has been," said a senior government source.
Some view this as an effective sidelining of Norma Foley, the Education Minister, who has had a difficult start and drawn the ire of Opposition TDs who have already accused her of breaching the ministerial code. But the senior source insisted Ms Foley has been doing all the running on the plan and will deliver a package that "packs a punch" tomorrow.
It's not just education: the Taoiseach was spotted in the Department of Health last week with a minister noting: "He is mooching around departments." The running joke for years in Fianna Fail has been that Martin views himself as the best former minister for education, health, enterprise and foreign affairs - portfolios he held in the Bertie years.
"God love Norma and Stephen," said one minister. "And God help Leo."
Martin, Varadkar and Eamon Ryan, the newly re-elected Green Party leader, are keen to stress that their working relationship is a good one. Much of the key decision-making in the Coalition happens in the highly-secretive Government Cabinet Coordination Committee made up of the three leaders and their top aides.
It was here last Tuesday evening that a fudge on the green list was hammered out. As Varadkar himself admitted of the new travel advice last Friday: "It may not be simple but it is very straightforward."
The big decisions on the July stimulus were also made by the leaders along with Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe and Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath who has, numerous sources say, settled into Government better than anyone else in Fianna Fail bar Martin. "There is general kudos for McGrath. He wasn't afraid to make political calls, Fine Gael ministers found engagements with him very good," said one senior Fine Gael figure.
But getting what was, in reality, a first of two budgets this year agreed was not without its rows and disagreements.
Fine Gael and Fianna Fail had signed off on the plan to cut capital gains tax to 20pc for 18 months. It even appeared in documents circulated to some Fine Gael ministers last Wednesday evening. But the Sunday Independent understands that no one in Government Buildings had told the Green Party.
When Eamon Ryan found out, he immediately demanded the plan to cut tax on property and share sales to be dropped. "They [the Greens] thought it would be politically dangerous for them, the critique of the Government would be that it was for wealthy people," said a source involved in the talks. "You couldn't not see it in the context of their leadership as well, their party is quite split."
The decision to drop the temporary CGT cut meant a cut in the standard rate of Vat from 23pc to 21pc came on the table. "That was kind of a last-minute thing because there was a huge gap," said the source.
The move to cut the sales tax on a raft of everyday items was the "big and bold" measure, as one minister said, that was at the centre of the €7bn package of grants, tax cuts, spending increases and loan guarantees that was announced by the three leaders last Thursday afternoon and broadly - and to their relief - landed well with the public.
Ryan is viewed as having had an excellent few weeks behind the scenes, having siphoned off €250m from the stimulus for new green transport and retrofitting initiatives. His success was viewed with envy by other ministers, one of whom said the Climate Action and Transport Minister was viewed by colleagues as having "cleaned out the place".
But just as the stimulus plan appeared to show the Government at last functioning properly, Fianna Fail found more ways to inflict damage on the Coalition's credibility.
First there was the mishandling of the vote for the Dail's vice chair - a lucrative if inconsequential position that is of little relevance to the public. Fine Gael TD Fergus O'Dowd was the preferred Coalition candidate for Leas Ceann Comhairle but was beaten in a secret ballot by Independent TD Catherine Connolly.
There was much gossiping among TDs last Thursday and Friday over the identities of the government rebels with most pointing the finger at the burgeoning Fianna Fail awkward squad. "It was being let known that 'don't f**king worry they'll never find out'," said a Fianna Fail TD. "Use it as a protest, vote against it."
Several Fianna Fail TDs identified privately have denied they voted for Connolly over O'Dowd, one even sending a picture of their ballot paper to prove the point. But Stephen Donnelly admitted he missed the vote: "I got pulled into an urgent healthcare matter, which is no excuse, as I should have been there to vote."
His failure to show up has infuriated O'Dowd. But the Louth TD should perhaps be more concerned by the at least six government deputies that the whips believe voted for Connolly. While it may include some Fine Gael TDs, it is more widely viewed as the beginning of an uncoordinated but potentially destabilising revolt against Martin from within his own party.
The vote was also another blow to the authority of the new Government Chief Whip Jack Chambers, who had earlier been forced into a U-turn on plans that would have excluded up to 19 Opposition TDs from being members of Oireachtas committees. Sources close to Chambers described his solution - increasing the number of TDs on each committee from 7 to 9 - as a "compromise", but most objective observers view it as an embarrassing climbdown for the young whip.
Still there was good news for Chambers last Friday when the Dail passed legislation to ensure that he and the two other super junior ministers at Cabinet - Fine Gael's Hildegarde Naughton and the Green Party senator Pippa Hackett - get a €16,000 pay increase. The optics of beginning to cut Covid payments while passing laws to boost some ministers' pay packets are appalling. One senior Fine Gael TD said it was "politically f**king stupid" and "gold for the Shinners". They weren't wrong. No wonder one Cabinet minister confided this weekend that they were desperate for the summer recess. "There is nothing left in the tank … we need to all get away from each other."
TDs will break from the Dail on Friday for six weeks, allowing ministers time to read further into their briefs and - they must hope - avoid the sort of unforced errors that have marred its first month in office.