The party meets this evening to decide what to do now that the President has sought seven more years in office. With Fianna Fáil and Labour backing Michael D Higgins, and Sinn Féin likely to run their own candidate - Fine Gael's decision tonight will limit how many Independent candidates can run.
If they back the incumbent as expected - it would make it very difficult for someone to get the 20 TDs or Senators or the 4 local councils needed to get on the ticket. And Leo Varadkar has said local councillors will be expected to follow the parliamentary party decision.
The arithmetic leaves it unlikely more than one Independent candidate could get a nomination. Some Independent TDs and Senators are also expected to back Michael D Higgins. Communications Minister Denis Naughten says he still hasn't made up his mind.The race for the Arás is on, but so far only Michael D has a place at the starting blocks.