One week into proper government formation negotiations and by all accounts it's been a slow start.

Introductory meetings and briefings have been on the agenda as Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party sat down together.

But the informal deadline of the end of this month already looks ambitious according to negotiators, unless the pace picks up substantially.

So far, views have been exchanged but no work has been done on putting anything together in text.

An agreed programme for government must be signed off by all three parties.

This means fleshing out joint policy positions in a document which will have to be parsed line by line.

Sources in Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have spoken about the Greens being cautious in talks and that coupled with its consultative model has slowed the pace.

Green Party negotiators report back frequently to the wider parliamentary party and its executive committee.

This is central to how the party approaches its decision making but others have pointed to it being a drag on forging agreement.

The Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael teams have already received a mandate from their parliamentary parties to negotiate on their behalf.

So far, the three parties have not tackled the fine detail of policy positions so few roadblocks have been encountered other than on direct provision during justice talks.

One source pointed to the fact that at the moment, choices have not had to be made.

Because different topics are being tackled separately, difficult decisions on priorities have not been taken.

Since Monday, four sessions on specific topics have taken place. Two days were spent on justice issues.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan and fellow TD Catherine Martin

Party spokespeople met to discuss policy differences with direct provision proving to be a sticking point.

On Tuesday, housing was the topic with a focus on building public housing on public land.

And yesterday, Brexit and Northern Ireland were discussed with Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney involved.

One source said there was already a national approach on Brexit although the backdrop to Friday's discussion was the lack of progress being made between the EU and Britain.

Undoubtedly, the centre-piece of the week was the sobering dose of economic reality delivered in briefings on Wednesday and Friday.

This was when the Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe and department officials outlined the scale of the budgetary challenges facing the country as it grapples with the fallout from the Covid emergency.

Soaring unemployment, a plummeting tax take and huge demands on spending lie ahead for the next few years.

The economic projections appear to be worsening each month and this also makes it difficult to pull together a programme for government when the full costs of the crisis are not yet known.

During week one, the talks did not concentrate on how to raise revenue and where to prioritise spending.

The real test of a new government will be its economic plan. 

This has been described as the biggest task for the next administration as every sector looks for help to reboot.

In addition, negotiators have not yet tackled more contentious issues such as climate action.

All sides have acceded to the Green Party’s demand of a 7% reduction in emissions annually. 

Dr Catherine Day

However, that agreement was the easy part. Hammering out the detail to achieve that target will be much more difficult.

In the justice talks, the main area of contention has been how to end the system of direct provision.

The Green Party wants it to be replaced by a not-for-profit system based on accommodation provided by approved housing bodies.

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have agreed to do this but have warned the Greens that it must be considered alongside the other housing priorities.

One source said there has been a reality check for the Greens on the difficulties of providing thousands of extra houses at a time of national shortage.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan reminded the Dáil on Wednesday of the independent group already examining the area. 

This forum is chaired by the former secretary general of the European Commission, Dr Catherine Day and is due to report back later this year.

There’s speculation that this could provide cover for pushing out a timetable on ending direct provision.

Next week promises to be more intensive according to sources in all three parties.

Monday will again focus on housing with further sessions to be decided over the weekend.

One source described the coming days as "make or break" and that the three parties will have to make a call by Friday on whether there was enough agreement to merit a third week of talks.

If everyone is still in the room by the end of the week, then it would seem a deal will be done.