The Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar told his parliamentary party tonight that his meeting with the Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin today has "cleared the air" and he was happy that the weekend row had been resolved.

RTÉ News understands he told his TDs and Senators via teleconference that Fine Gael felt it had to "put down a marker" as criticism from two senior Fianna Fáil spokespeople "wasn't acceptable".

The parliamentary party chair Martin Heydon said afterwards in a statement that Mr Varadkar said the Covid-19 pandemic payments, which are due to expire in June, will need to be extended as only some sectors will have returned to work.

He added that the Fine Gael leader also said that it was important that the daily Covid-19 figures stayed low and urged all to continue with the good work done across the country to date.

The Tánaiste Simon Coveney told the meeting that Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party negotiators aimed to have an agreed text on a programme for government finished by the end of the month for the three party leaders to consider.

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Mr Martin and Mr Varadkar met this morning for two hours, along with the Green Party leader Eamon Ryan. 

In a joint statement afterwards, they said: "The leaders reaffirmed their commitment to successfully concluding the talks and to negotiating in good faith." 

The controversy first emerged when it was revealed that officials were drafting plans on how a general election could be conducted amid the Covid-19 crisis. 

This prompted an angry reaction from some Fianna Fáil TDs, with Barry Cowen accusing Fine Gael of selfishness and of putting their party before the country.

However, Fine Gael insisted that civil servants were simply doing work required under the constitution, and described the Fianna Fáil comments as damaging to government formation talks.

In a statement this afternoon, Mr Martin and Mr Varadkar "... reaffirmed that the [government formation] talks will remain confidential and a running commentary will not be provided to the media from any of the parties on matters being discussed in the talks."

They said "all parties" were working to "conclude a draft Programme for Government by the end of the month". 

RTÉ News understands that officials from the Department of Climate Action were briefing negotiators this lunchtime, before a plenary session was convened this afternoon. 

Earlier this morning, discussions centred on housing.  

A large amount of work on draft texts was completed over the weekend and all three parties expressed confidence the talks will intensify.