The lord mayor, Labour’s Cllr Catherine Clancy, will ask city councillors next Monday to support her plan to confer the highest honour the city can bestow on the former president of the Labour Party.
If her nomination is approved, Mr Higgins will become the sixth president of Ireland to receive the Freedom of Cork — following in the footsteps of Douglas Hyde, Éamon de Valera, Sean T. O'Kelly, Mary Robinson, and Mary McAleese.
Ms Clancy briefed party whips on her proposal on Tuesday night. While some councillors have privately expressed unease at the plan, it is expected to be ratified.
An exact date for the special meeting of Cork City Council during which the honour will be conferred on Mr Higgins has yet to be finalised.
President Michael D Higgins, 72, took office on November 11, 2011.
A poet, sociologist, author, and broadcaster, he was president of the Labour Party from 2003 until his resignation following his election as president.
He previously served as a TD for Galway West and was minister for arts, culture and the Gaeltacht from 1993 to 1997.
He visited Cork earlier this year in the wake of two city centre flood events and praised the resilience of city traders.
Last year, comedians Frank Duggan and Michael Twomey — the duo behind Cha and Miah — and entertainer Billa O’Connell, accepted the Freedom of Cork — the first time in city council history that three people were conferred with the honour.
That decision followed controversy in 2011 over how many times the award was being handed out — two people in 2005, 2008, and 2009.
Consideration was given at the time to reducing the number of awards to just two over the council’s five- year term in an effort to protect its integrity.