More than five weeks after the General Election, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are sitting down for three days of talks aimed at finding a pathway towards forming a coalition government. The journey is not without obstacles but the parties will hope to find agreement on some key policy areas in the coming days.
Containing the virus
There is no getting beyond the mammoth task faced by the next government in tackling the outbreak of the coronavirus. Fianna Fáil is fully supportive of the Fine Gael-led Government's handling of the crisis.
Fianna Fáil has been making suggestions to its counterparts about how to tackle the virus but there is agreement that the decision-making should be led by public health officials. Today's talk will begin with a briefing on the virus for the Fianna Fáil team and a discussion on how to best proceed with containing the outbreak.
Fallout for businesses
There is no time-scale for when the world will finally get a handle on the outbreak or when normal life will return, but it eventually will.
Even when the virus dies off, there will be huge challenges for almost every sector in society. This will be a central element of the government formation talks. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael realise major financial supports will have to be implemented to ensure people's lives are not turned upside down indefinitely. Supports for those made unemployed, employers and contractors have begun but more will be needed. It is expected more than 330,000 workers will have lost their jobs before the end of the week and many businesses face collapse. How to address this unprecedented sudden loss of jobs and businesses will be a key topic in the talks.
Fallout for homeowners and renters
If people can't work, they can't pay their bills. It is a nervous time for homeowners and tenants who lost their jobs or have not been able to work. Many will be wondering how they are going to pay their rent or mortgages come the end of the month.
The Government is already in talks with banks about introducing moratoriums on mortgage payments during the crisis. Landlords are being asked to show forbearance to tenants and are being urged not to evict renters who cannot make payments due to the pandemic. The talks will focus on what legislation may be needed if landlords and banks do not play their part during the global crisis.
Other issues facing our country may not be front-page news for a while but they haven't gone away. In fact, the virus has exacerbated the problems.
Construction on housing will naturally slow down in the coming months. The two parties will also have less money for a long promised major investment in public and affordable housing. The parties will seek to identify how they can continue to stimulate the housing market with the funds available after the coronavirus fallout is addressed.
Climate change and the Greens
Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are very keen to include the Green Party in their coalition. Both parties believe the Greens have a lot to offer as government partners. With reduced financial resources, they won't be able to make radical promises on climate change and they don't believe the Greens are motivated by ministries. Some new thinking will be needed to convince them to sign up.