President Michael D Higgins intends to seek a second term of office, with figures in Leinster House told he will declare his intentions in July.
Sources familiar with the President's thinking have advised political figures likely to support his candidacy of his decision in order to prepare for an autumn campaign, The Irish Times has learned.
Such a timeframe, with an announcement expected before the Dáil rises for its summer recess and after the referendum on the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, means that speculation about Mr Higgins’s future will not dominate the quieter political agenda in August.
Mr Higgins previously said he would make his intentions clear by September, with a presidential election due to take place by November at the latest. The President’s spokesman did not return requests for comment last night.
Such a declaration will not be without controversy for Mr Higgins, who said during the 2011 presidential election campaign that he would only be a one-term President.
A number of politicians have already said they will challenge Mr Higgins. One of those, Independent Senator Gerard Craughwell, claims to have the support of the 20 members of the Oireachtas required to get on the ballot paper for a presidential election. As the incumbent Mr Higgins can nominate himself for a second term.
Main political parties
Among the main political parties, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said there is "no vacancy at the moment", adding: "We'll see what the President decides to do."
Before he became Fine Gael leader, however, Mr Varadkar said Mr Higgins would enjoy "enormous support" for a second term.
Whether he would be unopposed or not, that's a matter for others
“Whether he would be unopposed or not, that’s a matter for others, but I think that if he were to seek a second term he would have very strong cross-party support,” Mr Varadkar said in 2016.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said he will wait until Mr Higgins publicly outlines his position before deciding if his party will stand a candidate.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said she believes there should be a presidential election.
The high number of Independents in the current Dáil and Seanad makes it easier than has traditionally been the case for candidates outside the main parties to enter the race. Independent Alliance TD and Minister of State Finian McGrath has said he will sign the nomination papers of someone seeking to challenge Mr Higgins.