Fianna Fáil will not be supporting any candidate in the forthcoming Presidential election.
The decision was made by the parliamentary party at a meeting in Leinster House after a motion was put forward by party leader Micheál Martin and seconded by deputy leader Éamon Ó Cuív.
The issue had been raised by Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú, who asked colleagues for their backing to run as an Independent. This led to a fraught and divisive meeting last Thursday which pitted Mr Martin against Mr Ó Cuív.
Mr Martin was opposed to the idea and in advance of today’s meeting it seemed certain that he had the backing of a majority of the parliamentary party.
Arriving for the meeting, Cork North Central TD Billy Kelleher said he believed the party should stay out of the election.
He said the party had decided not to nominate a candidate, and he did not believe members should be allowed to decide individually who to back.
Clare TD Timmy Dooley expressed a similar view.
He said things had become “hot and heavy” at last Thursday’s meeting.
Asked about Mr Ó Cuív’s position, Deputy Dooley said he believed he would continue to play an important role in the party and remain in the position of Deputy Leader.
Earlier, Carlow Kilkenny TD John McGuinness said he was in favour of the party facilitating a candidate.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, he said: “I did agree with facilitating the nomination of Gay Byrne, and in line with that view, I would like to look at the possibility of nominating others.
“We are a big block of votes that can facilitate a nomination, and I believe we should.”
This morning it became clear that opinion in the party was supportive of the leader’s position.
That reality was recognised by Senator Ó Murchú, who announced before the meeting that he was withdrawing his name from consideration.
In a statement, Senator Ó Murchú said he would not continue to seek nominations from individual Fianna Fáil members.
“In the absence of such nominations, I could not achieve the 20 nominations required,” he said.
The Fianna Fáil ban on backing Independents is likely to make it impossible for David Norris or Dana Rosemary Scallon to get on the ballot paper either.