Sinn Fein are now "highly likely" to enter a candidate for the Irish presidential race.

“We are likely to nominate one of our own to contest the Presidential election,” party leader Gerry Adams stated.

“A final decision is yet to be made on the matter but I want to reiterate that I am not putting himself forward as a candidate."

There is speculation that Sinn Fein TD Caoimghin O Caolain may be a candidate of Sinn Fein go ahead. The Monaghan TD has a large support base in border areas.

Meanwhile, former Fine Gael Prime Minister John Bruton has signed Mitchell’s nomination papers ahead of next weekend’s Fine Gael selection convention. The heavyweight politician has publicly supported Mitchell as the latest opinion polls suggest Pat Cox is favorite to win a nomination race also featuring Mairead McGuinness and Avril Doyle.

The Fine Gael party president and at one time a potential candidate himself, Bruton hasn’t signed the nomination papers of the other three candidates.

“Gay Mitchell is a clear thinker with strong convictions and principles,” said Bruton. “All our candidates are very strong and the party is lucky to have such a wide choice.”

Mitchell has welcomed Bruton’s endorsement. “It’s a great honor and it’s highly significant,” he said.

Independent candidates Sean Gallagher, Mary Davis and David Norris are continuing to canvass County Councils for support – they require nominations from four councils or 20 members of the Irish parliament to run in the election.

So far, Gallagher has received expressions of support from four councils while Davis and Norris have both received backing from one council each.