Eamon Ryan was spotted roaming around Government Buildings last Friday morning, prompting one excitable Fine Gael figure to proclaim: "The deal is done."
Ryan had merely dropped by for a meeting with Micheal Martin and Leo Varadkar to discuss the progress - or lack of - being made in talks between Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the Greens to form a government. The tripartite negotiations are entering their fourth week and deadlines are slipping. A draft programme for government was supposed to be ready last week. The new deadline is this Friday, but now that is viewed as overly optimistic by those involved.
The warm weather is not helping matters for those stuck inside Agriculture House this weekend. "We'll still be negotiating this by the time Liverpool have won the title," sighed one Fianna Fail negotiator. Issues like agriculture and social protection are being discussed in detail for the first time this weekend.
Frustration is building in Fine Gael where some ministers want the whole process to fail. "We'll be back on the road in September," said one, while another confided they are "desperate" for the talks to collapse. Fine Gael councillors and members who are being consulted by the party's reference group daily are making similar noises. "They talk about Leo being revived and that we shouldn't be afraid of another election," said one source.
A senior Fine Gael source said: "It's a mix of fear of Greens in rural Ireland, mistrust of Fianna Fail and a sense that after 10 years in government, it's someone else's turn to be despised, unpopular and piled on for having to make all the decisions and hard choices."
Fianna Fail's desperation to be in government is evident to the other two parties. "They're your flexible friend," one insider observed. "This dynamic is developing where Fianna Fail are saying yes to everything the Greens want and say 'ah sure, it'll be grand', whereas Fine Gael are holding firm."
Fianna Fail figures acknowledge they are impatient to wrap things up. They argue the country needs a government, but they also know Micheal Martin has to become Taoiseach soon to prevent internal unrest. Fianna Fail backbenchers are being told very little. "All the TDs and senators are ringing around asking: 'What you are hearing?'" said one.
It adds to the general unease being felt among the Soldiers of Destiny. Some FF councillors are already co-ordinating a grassroots opposition to any deal but there is no national figurehead. Lots of glances are being thrown at rebellious figures like Eamon O Cuiv and John McGuinness, but they are relatively quiet. For now.
Meanwhile, some Greens are fearful that Eamon Ryan has already and will continue to cave on some issues too easily in direct talks with Martin and Varadkar. His deputy leader, Catherine Martin, has reportedly expressed concerns about this to some colleagues in recent days. She is strongly considering challenging Ryan for the leadership - a decision she must make one way or the other by this day week when nominations close.
This is further complicating talks. Fine Gael and Fianna Fail can't be sure that what Ryan agrees to will have the support of influential figures like Martin and the party's finance spokesperson, Neasa Hourigan. One veteran Green suggested last week that some of its negotiating team may end up arguing against the deal that is put to members. "Our approach to argumentation in the Greens would lend to the idea of that happening," they said.
The Greens brought former senator and party chairman Dan Boyle into the discussions on the economy last week. Boyle is a veteran of the 2007 and 2009 negotiations with Fianna Fail and knows better than most the dangers of allowing non-committal language into a programme for government documents that the other parties can then loosely interpret.
"On probably every issue, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael want to tie up an agreement to sell to their supporters as 'we kept the Greens in their box,'" said one Green source.
"But we have the benefit of hindsight and experience and a greater expectation among our members."
The sticking points are those that were forecast when negotiations began on May 7 - housing, the 7pc emissions reduction target and the budget deficit.
Housing is dividing along the ideological battleground that has underscored the debate on policy responses to the crisis for the last decade: public v private. Fianna Fail and Fine Gael envisage a starring role for the Land Development Agency (LDA) where private developers would build housing on public land. This is at odds with the Green Party's core policy of public housing on public land.
Fine Gael and Fianna Fail argue the Greens don't understand the need for the LDA and private sector involvement. Fine Gael in particular is concerned that too much of what Sinn Fein has been arguing for on housing is informing the Greens' approach. "There is a joke going around that Sinn Fein hasn't been locked out of the talks because Neasa Hourigan is there," said one figure.
But the Greens argue the two parties don't get that they must challenge their own shibboleths, or what one source described as "their total belief in the market and that home ownership should be the sole focus of housing policy".
On climate, the 7pc target is proving as challenging as many predicted. Fine Gael has drafted in Richard Bruton, who had been chairing the party's reference group. A paper has been put forward by the Department of Communications and Climate Action setting out how the 7pc target could be achieved. Some of the options are unpalatable for the Civil War parties. The Greens believe that agriculture will not be as problematic as envisaged, but that extracting commitments from the other two parties on transport and energy policies that can help hit the 7pc target will be.
The Greens want to split the transport budget 2:1 in favour of public transport over roads. Fianna Fail and Fine Gael point to many road projects already committed to and the large budget needed to maintain them.
The Greens want major renewable energy projects and retrofitting schemes frontloaded, but that costs a lot of money, which leads to arguably the biggest problem facing the next government and another stumbling block in the talks: the budget deficit, which is projected to hit €30bn this year.
One report last week that the Greens had conceded on the need to start cutting the deficit in the lifetime of the next government has been downplayed by all sides.
"Eamon Ryan made some supportive comments but that's not sorted yet," said one Fine Gael figure.
The Taoiseach and Paschal Donohoe have made clear the deficit has to be dealt with from 2023 onwards. Fianna Fail does not disagree with this, but the Greens are questioning whether it means austerity. Tied into the budget deficit issue is the demand by Fianna Fail and the Greens to scrap plans to increase the State pension age to 67 from next year, at a cost of €250m. "Fine Gael's view is that the world has changed since the election and the pension issue is related to the fiscal sustainability issue. To be doing something like this would look lax," said a source with knowledge of the dispute.
Fianna Fail's problem is that Micheal Martin committed unequivocally in this newspaper a month ago to keeping the State pension age at 66 next year. To cave on that would be a major and damaging U-turn for that man who would be Taoiseach.
These issues are not insurmountable. There will be lots of fudges and most involved in the talks agree that a deal can eventually be struck - but getting it past the members of each party, particularly in the Greens' case, is not guaranteed by any stretch.
"It's not beyond belief that you could have Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with his current coterie of ministers in the year 2021," said one Government insider.
"We're the new Belgium."