Michael D Higgins has confirmed that he will seek a second term as President.

Speaking in Co Mayo this afternoon, Mr Higgins said he had met all of the demands of the office and had decided to run again.

In a short statement earlier today, Mr Higgins said he would be "offering himself as an independent candidate, under Article 12.4.4 of Bunreacht na hÉireann, when the Ministerial Order for a Presidential Election is made later this year.

"The Government has been informed."

If other candidates decide to contest the election they will need the backing of either 20 members of the Oireachas or four local authorities.

So far, independent senators Gerard Craughwell and Padraig Ó Céidigh, along with Senator Joan Freeman, have all expressed an interest in running.

Businessman Sean Gallagher has also written to the mayor or chairperson of all local authorities seeking that they schedule meetings to discuss nominations of presidential candidates.

Mr Gallagher contested the 2011 Presidential Election.

A source closely involved with Mr Gallagher's campaign seven years ago said he believes the businessman would play a significant role in this campaign whether he was a candidate or not.

On Twitter, Mr Gallagher said: "It is vital for everyone in public life to facilitate the process by which more candidates are encouraged to come forward to more fully reflect the diverse and changing Ireland we now live in."

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Senator Craughwell described President Higgins' announcement as a strategic move in order to eliminate the possibility of an election and said he was deeply disappointed and angered by the timing of the announcement.

Sinn Féin will make a decision on Saturday if it will put forward a presidential candidate.

It is expected the party will contest the election given that its leader Mary Lou McDonald said recently that the incumbent should not be allowed to roll seamless into a second term.

She said a presidential election would afford the country the opportunity to have a "large national conversation" about where Ireland is going. 

Ms McDonald has already made it clear that she wants her party to stand a candidate in the election, but she said the Ard Comhairle were "not sheep" and would offer different views. 

She said she wished President Higgins well as "he is a person who has served with distinction and who has done the entire country proud.

"It is my own view that now is a time when we need a large national conversation about Ireland not just over the coming seven years but beyond that.

"The last election was seven years ago lots has changed since that time."

Ms McDonald said it would be a matter for the Sinn Féin Ard Comhairle to decide whether a candidate would be selected from within the party or beyond, and she said there were a number of credible candidates who could run for the presidency. 

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin has welcomed the decision of Mr Higgins to seek a second term.

Mr Howlin said that he had been an exemplary president. He said his party executive would meet tomorrow and the party was expected to campaign for his re-election.

Mr Higgins was a Labour candidate in the 2011 presidential campaign.

He is standing as an Independent in this contest and is supported by Fianna Fáil and Labour, while it is expected he will also be supported by Fine Gael.

The party will make a decision tomorrow evening on whether or not it will field a candidate in any presidential election.

The chairperson of the Fine Gael parliamentary party, Martin Heydon, confirmed the issue will be discussed at the weekly meeting of TDs and senators.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said Mr Higgins' decision to seek a second term is the best outcome for the Irish people.

If an election does go ahead, it is expected to take place on 25 or 26 October.

Voters will also be asked to give their view on two referendums - on blasphemy and on the Constitution article on a woman's place in the home - on the same day.

Earlier, it was reported that the former Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh said she was hoping to be nominated as a Presidential candidate. In fact, what she said to RTÉ was that she was interested in running as a candidate for political office.

Additional reporting: Justin McCarthy, Martina Fitzgerald