Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness has secured the support of four Independent TDs in his bid to contest the upcoming Presidential election.

Deputies Michael Healy-Rae, Luke Flanagan, Tom Fleming and Finian McGrath have all agreed to sign Mr McGuinness' nomination papers according to a party spokesperson.

This in theory gives Mr McGuinness more than the required 20 Oireachtas signatures required to be added to the ballot paper.

Sinn Féin already has a total of 17 Oireachtas members, including 14 TDs and 3 Senators.

Mr McGuinness was put forward as a candidate by his party's officer board yesterday and will go before its Ard Comhairle tomorrow to be ratified as a candidate for the election.

Should he secure the nomination his position as Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister will be filled temporarily with the party saying the matter will be reviewed once the election is over.

He is expected to ask Education minister, Sinn Féin's John O'Dowd, to fulfil these responsibilities.

Mr McGuinness returns from the United States today following a five-day series of official engagements with Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson.

Meanwhile, Senator David Norris has said he hopes to re-enter the race for a nomination to contest the Presidential election.

The one-time favourite for the post withdrew from the race six weeks ago after it emerged he had written a letter in support of his former partner, who was convicted in Israel of the statutory rape of a 15-year-old boy.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Late Late Show last night, Senator Norris said the nomination process for the presidency was flawed.

He said he withdrew his candidacy in August because of what he called an "intense firestorm of publicity" - but he believed the Irish people "liked a comeback".

He has until 28 September to secure the backing he needs.

Commenting on the latest developments in the Presidential race, Labour's candidate Michael D Higgins said that he is not worried about any candidate entering the field.

Reacting to the news that Sinn Féin is seeking to nominate Mr McGuinness, he said he does not know if the Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister will have an impact on the campaign and that he does not comment on others in the campaign.

Mr Higgins also said his campaign is going very well and that there is a certain impatience for the candidate list to be known so the focus switches to talking about the presidency.

Latest poll shows Higgins still ahead

The latest opinion poll on the Presidential election - carried out before the announcement that Martin McGuinness will be Sinn Féin's nominee - shows that Labour's Michael D Higgins remains in the lead, with 32% support.

He's followed by David Norris on 19%, Mary Davis on 18%, Gay Mitchell on 17% and Seán Gallagher on 14%.

Both Ms Davis and Mr Gallagher have gained since the last comparable poll in August, by five and three points respectively, while Mr Mitchell has dropped four points.

40% of voters favour a comeback by Mr Norris, up six points since August.

43% are opposed, while 17% say they don't know, down four points.

This Millward Brown Lansdowne poll for the Sunday Independent was conducted over a two week period up to last Wednesday, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3%.

Meanwhile, the poll finds support for Fianna Fáil down significantly since the general election - the party is on just 10%, behind Sinn Féin on 11%.

Fine Gael and Labour on 40% and 20% respectively, are both higher than their general election performance, while Independents and Others are on 19%.