FINE Gael and Labour are plotting behind the scenes to ensure that Sean Gallagher is not elected president.
Mr Gallagher's rivals have upped the ante on him in recent days by focusing on his Fianna Fail past. And now the Herald can reveal that Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore are to consider an official voting pact between their candidates.
Sources told the Herald that senior party members within Fine Gael now accept that Gay Mitchell will be an "also ran" and are "out to stop the so-called ex-Fianna Failer".
By asking Gay Mitchell voters to give their second preferences to Michael D Higgins, the coalition would hugely increase the likelihood of the Labour man becoming the next president.
The most recent opinion polls suggest that Mr Higgins is in a head-to-head battle with Mr Gallagher for the presidency.
However, since Mr Gallagher surged into the lead on first preferences his rivals have repeatedly tried to highlight his links with Fianna Fail.
While campaigning yesterday, Mr Kenny was asked whether his party voters should give their second preference to Michael D Higgins.
"I'll talk to Eamon Gilmore about that. Our challenge is to get the Fine Gael vote out and that is why we are sweeping around the country this weekend," Mr Kenny said.
Pressed on whether he would be meeting with Mr Gilmore about a transfer pact, Mr Kenny replied: "Yes, I will, of course. Eamon is on Dail questions this morning and I haven't spoken to him about this at all.
"We will consider the position later in the week."
He added: "I will talk to the Labour leader and see what to do, but for us the challenge is to get the Fine Gael vote out and vote one Mitchell."
His comments came as Mr Higgins publicly turned up the heat on Mr Gallagher by claiming he represented an "ethically vacuous" model of society.
He said it was "very difficult" to disassociate the Dragons' Den investor and his campaign from "the excesses of the Celtic Tiger".
Last night, Mr Gallagher again distanced himself from Fianna Fail and the collapse of the economy.
"I've stated I'm not a member of the party and this ongoing attempt to demonise members of a grassroots voluntary organisation is a retrograde step.
"We should be encouraging more people to get involved."
He rejected reports that he had asked business people in 2008 to donate up to €5,000 to attend an intimate dinner with then Taoiseach Brian Cowen.
"I was asked would I let local business people know that the event was on, which I did. But I collected no money."