Sinn Féin has said it will be available to talk to all parties about forming a government if the current negotiation process between Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party collapses.

Cork South Central TD, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, told RTÉ's The Week in Politics programme that Sinn Féin is still open to offers from other parties but only on the basis of delivering a programme for change.

"If the two traditional, older parties want to form a government with a stable majority, the quickest way is to pick up the phone to us and tell us how they are going to deliver a fairer government and the change that we need, and we will talk to them on those terms," he said.

Minister for Education Joe McHugh said that a government is needed to ensure that some of the measures that will be needed in the short term to deal with the coronavirus can be implemented.

He was responding to comments from some Limerick Fine Gael councillors who have called for a government of national unity until such a time as another general election takes place.

One of those, Councillor John Sheahan, told the programme: "There is an anxiety among the party: are we being listened to, now that we cannot hold a normal Ard Fheis to sanction entering any government, and basically what is the rush for it?"

Minister McHugh said: "The rush is that there's going to be big, big decisions made in the short term and we need a government to do that. That is why there is a priority around this. I spoke to Simon Coveney this morning and he told me preliminary discussions are going well."

However he said the party leadership "cannot ignore messages coming from the grassroots and there are fears coming from the grassroots - whether it is from the farming community or people living on very low incomes who are worried about the price of a bag of coal going up".

He said: "All those issues will be brought to the fore during the negotiations. There is no programme for government yet but that has to feed in." 

He said while the party is pragmatic about protecting the environment "we can't have people hurting economically and financially as we work our way through this".

Many policy differences to tackle in government formation talks

Fianna Fáil's Thomas Byrne said that Fianna Fáil "gets" the need to meet the challenge of getting to grips with climate change.

Green Party Senator, Pippa Hackett, said there is a difference of opinion within the party in relation to entering government, "but it is a small percentage in the party and it is up to us to drive a hard bargain in these negotiations and we are well equipped to do that".

Green Party Councillor in Cork City, Lorna Bogue, told The Week in Politics that it is unlikely any deal will be ratified by the party membership because Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael "won't give us a deal that will do all the things that we are asking for". 

She said: "At the moment what we are seeing is not very convincing."