Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has given a strong indication that the party will put forward a candidate to contest the Presidential Election.

"As a matter of principle the person who occupies the highest office in the land ought to have an electoral sanction and mandate behind them," she told reporters at Leinster House.

"I don't think it's appropriate that the incumbent rolls into another term of office seamlessly. I think the election provides a platform for a very healthy debate about Ireland."

She said that a final decision will be taken at the party's next Ard Comhairle meeting, which is likely to be held on Saturday week.

Ms McDonald said a mix of names is being considered by the party.

Meanwhile, the leader of the Fianna Fáil group on Cavan County Council is seeking to have the local authority meet over the summer to allow potential candidates to enter the presidential election.

John Paul Feeley said he wants such a meeting to be held within seven days of the election being called.

Councillor Feeley said he had received no direction from party headquarters that prevented Fianna Fáil councillors from endorsing the nomination of presidential candidates.

This appears to be at odds with what party leader Micheál Martin said last week after Fianna Fáil gave its full backing to Michael D Higgins.

Mr Martin indicated then that councillors and not just TDs and senators would be bound by this decision.

Candidates who wish to contest a presidential election need the support of 20 members of the Oireachtas or the backing of four local authorities.

Separately, MEP Brian Hayes has ruled out supporting fellow Fine Gael members of the European Parliament in challenging Michael D Higgins.

Speaking in Strasbourg, the European People's Party MEP expressed his support for Mr Higgins fulfilling a second term.

He said that while they came from different perspectives economically, he had huge respect for President Higgins and that it would be unusual if the Government of the day did not support him.

Mr Hayes said while the two Fine Gael MEPs who have been mentioned in relation to the presidency - Sean Kelly and Mairead McGuinness - are "great colleagues", he understood their aim was to be elected to the next European Parliament.

Mr Hayes said the current president is the best candidate. 

"It's above and beyond personal ambition at this stage, it's around the best thing for the country and serving Uachtaráin Michael D Higgins has done a great job", he said. 

Additional Reporting Ailbhe Conneely