The Fine Gael parliamentary party has decided to recommend to its executive council that it should actively support Micheal D Higgins’s bid for a second term as President.

The executive council, which has the deciding say on how the party will act, is to meet next week.

Taoiseach Leo Vardakar said it was his belief that if it supports Mr Higgins, it should do so in a wholehearted way and actively support his campaign and campaign for him.

Mr Varadkar said Mr Higgins deserved a second term, adding that the President and his wife Sabina had done a fabulous job.

Mr Higgins announced yesterday that he intended to run for a second term in office.

He is standing as an Independent in this contest and is also supported by Fianna Fáil and Labour.

On the matter of Fine Gael councillors abstaining on votes to nominate other candidates, Mr Varadkar said that would be a decision of the executive council.

The Taoiseach said the party could issue posters and literature for Mr Higgins, but they would have to discuss the matter with his team before making a final decision on the matter.

Parliamentary party chairman Martin Heydon said there were three options put to the parliamentary party this evening.

The options were to run their own candidate, not to contest the election and do nothing, or to campaign strongly for Mr Higgins.

Twelve members spoke on the issue and nine were in favour of endorsing Mr Higgins.

Three deputies questioned this but Mr Varadkar said there was no need for a vote.

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There are also moves afoot by Independent TDs and Senators to come together to facilitate the nomination of a candidate to contest a potential presidential election.

A perspective candidate needs the backing of either 20 members of the Oireachtas or four local authorities to get on the ballot paper.

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice is seeking to co-ordinate the 35 non-aligned members of the Oireachtas to back a single candidate.

So far, 12 of them have agreed to join forces but this effort remains eight votes shy of being able to endorse a candidate.

But even if a group of 20 takes shape, it is not clear which potential candidate it would support.

Those who have expressed an interest in running include senators Joan Freeman, Gerard Craughwell and Padraig Ó Céidigh, as well as artist Kevin Sharkey.

Sinn Féin will make a decision on Saturday whether or not it will contest the election, but there is an expectation that it will do so.

Several county and city councils are also considering a request from businessman Sean Gallagher that they should allocate time for candidates to make a pitch for nominations.

Mr Gallagher, who finished second in the 2011 presidential election, should know by the weekend just how many councils are amenable to this request.

Additional reporting Mícheál Lehane