The Presidential Election is to be held on Friday 26 October, Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy has confirmed.

Nominations will have to be submitted by 26 September and the election will take place one month later.

The Presidential Election Order was signed today by the minister.

Those hoping to be candidates require the support of four local authorities or the backing of 20 members of the Oireachtas.

The sitting president can nominate himself to contest the election.

President Higgins is seeking a second term in office and Sinn Féin has also said it will field a candidate in the election.

Meanwhile, it had been thought that Fine Gael councillors were relatively free to back candidates' efforts to get on the ballot paper.

However, a letter from the party's General Secretary, Tom Curran, to all Fine Gael Councillors states: "We are requesting that councillors in considering the matter of Presidential nominations take into account the party's position and as a consequence neither propose or support other candidates."

Earlier this summer, both the Fine Gael parliamentary party and its Executive Council decided that the party would support Michael D Higgins.

This latest correspondence does not say if councillors would face sanctions should they ignore this request.

Businessman Seán Gallagher, who was a candidate in the 2011 Presidential Election, has said he will make a formal announcement tomorrow morning about the upcoming election.

Yesterday, several would-be nominees addressed three local councils in a bid to secure their backing.

Fine Gael chairman of Westmeath County Council has said the feeling was that the council would back businessman Gavin Duffy as its nomination to contest the election.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, John Dolan said the presentations made by John Groarke, Marie Goretti Moylan, Gemma O'Doherty, and Mr Duffy were good.

He said the council had also arranged to hear from Senator Joan Freeman, who was not able to attend yesterday.

Mr Dolan said if anyone else decided to "throw their hat in the ring" it would be open to hearing from them as well.

He said he would toe the party line when it came to supporting Mr Higgins, but said he had no problem facilitating Westmeath County Council nominating someone else.

Independent Cathaoirleach of Meath County Council Tom Kelly said a decision would be made on who councillors would nominate at next week’s council meeting.

Speaking on the same programme, he said the feeling at yesterday's meeting was that councillors may decide to nominate Mr Duffy.

Mr Kelly said eight prospective candidates made presentations yesterday.

He said it is hoped an announcement about their nomination would be made at a meeting of the council on 3 September.

The Fine Gael whip on Meath County Council has indicated he is prepared to defy party orders to back Mr Duffy.

Councillor Gerry O'Connor said it had been his understanding that while Fine Gael councillors could not propose candidates, they were in a position to support nominations.

However, he said the recent correspondence from Mr Curran has changed that.

However Cllr O'Connor said he was willing to face any consequences and support Mr Duffy's nomination.

"It is not that Fine Gael councillors are opposed to Michael D Higgins, it's just that we don't want a situation where Sinn Féin will be the only challenger in this election," he said.

Inauguration on Armistice Day

The Presidential inauguration is taking place on 11 November, the centenary of Armistice Day, which marks the end of World War I.

The President has in the past attended commemorations on Armistice Day.

A Government spokesperson said President Higgins' term in office officially ends on 10 November and that is why the inauguration is taking place the following day.

Two referendums scheduled for election day

Separately, the Government still intends to hold two referendums on the day of the Presidential Election.

One will ask voters if they want to remove the words in the constitution that make blasphemy an offence.

The second referendum is proposing the deletion of the constitutional reference to women in the home.

However, legislation to pave the way for this referendum still has to be examined in detail by the Oireachtas Justice Committee.

That work has the potential at least to delay the holding of this second referendum.

Additional reporting: Mícheál Lehane