A row has broken out in the Labour Party over its decision not to contest in the presidential election.

Michael D Higgins is disputing a claim by party leader Pat Rabbitte that there had been a clear understanding in July that he would not put his name forward. 

Mr Rabbitte has claimed the deal was not held up at the last minute when Mr Higgins changed his mind.

The deputy's attempt to get official backing for his candidacy ultimately foundered by a single vote at the party's ruling body.

Mr Higgins has now disputed this account. He says there was no agreement and that, in any event, circumstances changed over the intervening months. However, Mr Higgins said the issue is closed as far as he is concerned.

It is thought Mr Rabbitte could still come under criticism within Labour, where Mr Higgins' supporters remain angry over the party's treatment of the veteran frontbencher.