Almost a quarter of all county and city councils have chosen not to nominate any candidate to contest next month's presidential election amid criticism over the standard of people putting themselves forward for the race.
Westmeath, Laois, Offaly and Kilkenny joined Dublin city council and Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown in officially declining to nominate anyone today, while Monaghan has no more scheduled meetings on the matter and has yet to back a contender.
In a series of votes taken throughout the country made as businessman Peter Casey separately received the backing of Clare and Kerry and artist Kevin Sharkey pulled out of the race, seven councils declined to support any potential president.
And while the decisions are likely to lead to fresh claims the system prevents a large number of candidates from reaching the official ballot paper, it has underlined ongoing concerns over the standard of candidates in the race.
In Laois, councillors chose not to nominate anyone despite a request from Sean Gallagher to switch planned support for his already successful bid to make the official ballot paper to another candidate.
The move was repeated in Westmeath and Offaly, while in Kilkenny a decision was taken not to support any candidate, and in Monaghan, a scheduled meeting did not take place because no nominations were received.
Of the seven councils which made a decision today, only two - Kerry and Clare - voted to back a candidate, with businessman Mr Casey being chosen in both instances.
However, while the votes mean Mr Casey - who is likely to be backed next week by Donegal - is now just one council away from entering the official race, his support in both councils was not a unanimous success.
In Clare, Mr Casey won the support despite only receiving the backing of seven of the 28 councillors on the local authority, while in Kerry it is understood councillors were swayed to support him instead of rival Independent candidate Gemma O'Doherty after an intervention from the sister of the late Veronica Guerin, Clare O'Brien, who asked them to back other candidates.
(Limerick, Longford and Tipperary tomorrow)
(South Dublin county council on Thursday)
(Kildare, Sligo, Cork county and potentially Louth next Monday)
(Donegal which has yet to decide if it will hold a further meeting)
In order to officially enter next month's presidential race, candidates other than incumbent Michael D Higgins must win the support of at least four councils, or at least 20 TDs or senators.
The council votes came as outspoken Independent presidential candidate Kevin Sharkey was forced to deny claims his candidacy was a publicity stunt after pulling out of the race in a statement which also highlighted his upcoming "presidential" art exhibition and his first music single.
Hours later, fellow Independent candidate Jimmy Smyth also pulled out for health reasons.
Meanwhile, in a clear gearing up of the presidential race, a campaign website www.michaeldhiggins.ie calling for people to support Michael D Higgins was launched today.
Pieta House founder Joan Freeman separately spoke out against rural isolation at the National Ploughing Championships in Tullamore, Co Offaly.
Additional reporting by Anne Lucey, Gordon Deegan and Louise Walsh