The spinning of hardline positions to your party's base is supposed to happen after coalition negotiations - not during the middle of talks.
Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party appear to be throwing out the rule book in a government formation process unlike anything that went before. Fine Gael seems to not be conceding ground as it fears it will come to naught, with the Greens simply refusing to get on board. The leadership heave in the Greens by Catherine Martin against Eamon Ryan has certainly had a destabilising effect.
A failure to form a coalition would be the first time in almost 30 years that a talks process didn't produce a government, since the Labour Party and Fine Gael false start in 1992. It will have huge consequences for all the parties.
The red-line issues seemed to be the carbon emissions reduction target, pension age and deficit reduction. However, there now appear to be several other still unresolved issues coming into the mix like not raising income tax, the liquefied natural gas terminal, the cost rental model of housing and the export of goods from Palestine.
In a crucial few days, here are the options available to the parties - deal or no deal:
Join the back-from-the-dead body of Fine Gael, the remaining limbs of Fianna Fáil and solar power it with the Green Party: what could possibly go wrong? The Frankenstein coalition will certainly frighten the peasants. Assuming any deal agreed is passed is a big leap, given the opposition in the Greens and the hostility in Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.
The new government will immediately have to make tough decisions on the Covid dole payments and telling the public what can't be done due to the new financial realities. Popularity will have to wait.
And if the talks fail, cobbling something together quickly to appoint Leo Varadkar as a temporary Taoiseach, to appoint senators and get the Seanad sitting is problematic but may be necessary. Apart from the Offences Against the State Act lapsing, financial supports for businesses post-lockdown require legislation.
Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have been wisely keeping the lines of communication open with some Independents. Getting eight to sign up to achieve a majority is doable, but hardly stable. A quasi-support arrangement with the Labour Party - or at least not vote against a new government forming - is unlikely to succeed but worth a try. Alan Kelly still being in the equation has been mentioned in Fianna Fáil.
After the talks with John Bruton floundered, Dick Spring did ultimately go into government with Fianna Fáil in 1992, despite his criticism of Albert Reynolds.
However, Micheál Martin has gone far further with Sinn Féin. His future as leader comes into question if the Greens deal fails. The frontrunners to be the next leader would be Dara Calleary, Michael McGrath and Barry Cowen, all of whom are on the Fianna Fáil negotiating team.
The dark horse is Big Jim O'Callaghan, who would represent a break from Martin's regime.
He flip-flopped after the General Election on going into talks with Sinn Féin, flailing from saying its policies would "turn the country into Venezuela" to saying his party was "maybe too definitive" in ruling it out. Hello, Mary Lou...?
Well, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin would still be a possibility to be teased out.
Caracas might suddenly look attractive as a destination.
A second general election is definitely an option on the table. Expect the Greens to be blamed from all sides for the failure to form a government.
Fine Gael would fancy its chances on the back of the handling of the coronavirus crisis, which has seen the party surge in the opinion polls. Sinn Féin has maintained its momentum since the General Election, but Fianna Fáil has slipped back dangerously. The public won't want a second vote though.