By MARY MINIHAN -
Independent senator David Norris has formally launched his bid to become president of Ireland.
Mr Norris said he would be a "deeply serious" president if elected to the position.
"But that doesn't mean there's going to be no fun," he added.
He said the challenge for the next president would be to restore self-confidence to the people of Ireland. "They are hurting".
Mr Norris also said the next president would have to reach out to communities "devastated by suicide". He added: "No longer can we ignore those who struggle with mental health issues".
The strength to overcome the current crisis would not come from government but from the people, he added. "It gives me great heart to see the determination of our people still burning bright."
Asked if Ireland was ready for an openly gay president, Mr Norris said: "I don't see myself as a gay president, I see myself as a president who happens to be gay."
He added: "I think the Irish people are a little bit bored with my sexuality". He said the Irish people knew him and his values and knew he had lived a decent and good life.
The launch took place in the Science Gallery in Dublin. Mr Norris said if elected he would put a portion of his salary aside for a fund that would make the presidency more accessible. "This is the people's money," he said.
Asked about how his campaign would be funded, Mr Norris said he was the main - "if not the only" - contributor at present, although the campaign was starting to receive donations. He said he knew people were "stressed financially" and would welcome support in whatever form.
He said he was exploring all avenues to secure a nomination and had written to the cathaoirleach of local authorities requesting an opportunity to address their meetings.
He had also engaged with political parties and Independent Oireachtas members. He is committed to running as an Independent.
Candidates need the support of four local authorities or 20 Oireachtas members to stand. The Oireachtas committee on the Constitution report of 1998 on the presidency recommended a candidate could be nominated by 10,000 citizens.
This year is likely to see the first contested election for 14 years.
A presidential election was set for October 2004 but when the nominations closed, the only candidate was the incumbent, President Mary McAleese, who was returned unopposed.