A look at the main issues facing the Government as the new Dáil term begins.

1) Budget

There are just three weeks to go to Budget day and Government is planning a roughly 2:1 split between spending and taxation and to bring in a balanced budget next year.

At this stage the coalition has around €300 million for spending increases and tax cuts but this will increase; it’s just not clear by how much.

Last year, notice of the additional fiscal space was announced just days before the Budget to the annoyance of the Opposition.

The parameters of Budget 2018 though will still be tight. On the spending side there are indications of another rise in the pension and measures for lone parents and children.

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe favours widening the tax bands and raising the entry point that people hit the higher income tax rate.

Paschal Donohoe pictured during last year's Budget day

Fianna Fáil, however, wants the Government to focus on reducing the Universal Social Charge as promised in the Programme for Government.

The two positions are not mutually exclusive. Both are possible but there’s limited scope. The negotiations within Government ran relatively smoothly last year but the talks with Fianna Fáil went down to the wire over the timing of social welfare increases. Given the existing tensions, don’t rule out a repeat performance.

2) Housing

It's the Government’s biggest priority. It's also its biggest challenge. In July over 5,000 adults and almost 3,000 children were using emergency accommodation.

Ironically July was the original target set to end the use of B&Bs and hotels. It wasn't met because the Government has been running to stand still on this issue.

3,000 people were moved out of emergency accommodation last year but there is increasing demand and tackling supply takes time.

There is increasing demand on emergency accommodation

So far there have been new announcements about building more social housing and looking at re-purposing NAMA to develop lands. But such measures take time. The Taoiseach has said he doesn't think the housing crisis will be resolved during this Government's term in office.

The public though will want to see real improvements next year, which potentially could be an election year.

3) Justice

Two garda commissioners have retired within the last three years and a key task and test of this Fine Gael- Independent minority Government will be the appointment of a new one.

Nóirín O'Sullivan retired as garda commissioner earlier this month

The Policing Authority is also due to release its independent review of the breath test controversy later this month. That could throw up further issues.

There is also the matter of dealing with those responsible and all the indications so far from the Government is that it believes there should be disciplinary action. But what if that involves hundreds or thousands of gardaí?

The Disclosures Tribunal is also up and running examining allegations of a smear campaign by senior gardaí against whistleblowers. The Government will have to wait and see what emerges and also deal with any fallout.

4) Health

The ability to tackle overcrowding in emergency departments and the number of patients on trolleys has challenged numerous governments and this one is no different, although the health budget now stands at close to €15 billion, the biggest in the history of the State.

In August, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation said the level of hospital overcrowding had reached record levels with almost 7,800 patients on trolleys or on wards waiting for admission to a bed. In response the Health Service Executive said the number had decreased by 1.4% in the year to date.

But overall the demand for emergency department treatment continues to grow and with winter approaching, this remains a significant challenge for the Government.

5) Brexit

Next month the European Council will have to make a big decision on the progress of the negotiations so far and whether both sides can move on to next phase of talks on trade which Britain is pushing for.

European negotiators have repeatedly warned the UK that there must be "sufficient progress" on citizens' rights, the Irish border and a financial settlement before negotiations can turn to a trade deal.

The European Council has to make a big decision on the progress of negotiations

All the soundings from Europe and here suggest this is not going to happen and the clock is ticking. The talks have been deadlocked over the key question of the financial settlement although progress has been made on the Common Travel Area.

There is now growing speculation the October deadline may be postponed until December. The only thing that is clear is that the ongoing uncertainty is not helpful to the Irish Government or Irish businesses.

6) Tricky legislation

Any minority coalition faces difficulty getting through legislation and the Fine Gael-Independent minority coalition is no different.

It faces challenges regarding two alcohol-related bills. The Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2017 would result in an automatic driving ban for those found to be over the blood alcohol limit.

The cabinet has endorsed the bill but critically a decision has not yet been made on whether Fine Gael backbenchers will have to support it.

Although the bill is being brought by the Independent Alliance Minister Shane Ross - some within the group also want a free vote. But privately the Government is confident it will pass.

But they are probably less assured about the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill. It provides for minimum pricing.

However the proposal to restrict alcohol visibility in shops has angered many TDs and senators, who are concerned about its impact on small businesses. Minister for Health Simon Harris is due to bring forward proposals to address their concerns.

7) Water

The Government will introduce new laws to deal with one of the most politically controversial issues - water charges.

Excessive usage of water will be set by the regulator

The new laws to charge for excessive usage underpin the recommendations of an all-party Oireachtas committee.

Excessive usage will be set at 1.7 times the average household usage and that will be decided by the regulator.

It’s a key decision and one the Government wants off its table. Importantly, the charges won’t be imposed until July 2019, which happens to be after the local elections. This Government has learnt the lessons of 2014.

8) Judicial appointments

Changing how judges were appointed was a key demand of the Independent Alliance during the Programme for Government talks and it secured a commitment on the issue.

The Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, which provides for a new body to make recommendations on judicial appointments, is causing tensions between the Government and Fianna Fáil and also the judiciary. Under the bill, the commission would have a lay majority and chairperson.

The Govt has the numbers to ultimately pass the judicial appointments bill

Fianna Fáil strongly opposes this and some within Fine Gael privately have their own reservations. But it’s now a Government bill with significantly, Sinn Féin support.

This means the Government has the numbers to ultimately pass it, although it may get caught up at committee stage with lots of amendments.

9) Abortion

The electorate has gone to the polls three times on the substantive issue. And next year, there may be a fourth poll on the minority Government’s watch.

An Oireachtas committee has until mid-December to report back on the issue. It will consider the Citizens' Assembly’s recommendations for an extensive liberalisation of the grounds on which abortion is available here. It may prove difficult to get a political consensus.

If a referendum is proposed, the Government would have to pass legislation in the Oireachtas for one to be held.

The Government is also likely to publish legislation in advance of a poll, showing what impact the referendum would have if passed.

Officials from the Department of Health and the Attorney General’s office are already looking at possible outcomes so they will be prepared. In the event of the referendum, many believe it could be held in early summer.

10) Election

The Programme for Government lasts for the duration of the Dáil. Fianna Fáil’s confidence and supply deal with Fine Gael lasts for three budgets - the last one being Budget 2019 next year. Then there will be a review.

Officially both parties are adamant they will honour the agreement. Privately many in Leinster House believe a General Election could take place next autumn.

But the timing of a possible referendum on abortion will be important. Some in the Government also want to remain in power for Budget 2019 next year when there will be more room to manoeuvre in terms of spending increases and tax cuts.

That would not rule out an autumn poll. As for a General Election in 2019? Unlikely, as it would coincide with the local elections. But despite the speculation, most parties are already selecting their candidates. Just to be ready.