Fine Gael is set for a battle royal with its presidential election nomination after Gay Mitchell officially entered the race yesterday.
The Dublin MEP will go up against his European Parliament colleague Mairead McGuinness and former PD TD and MEP Pat Cox for the place on the ticket.
The candidate to emerge from the Fine Gael contest will have a strong chance of winning the Presidency.
The party is expected to hold a selection convention next month with TDs, senators, MEPs, councillors and national executive members all having a say in the outcome.
After considering his position, Mr Mitchell confirmed yesterday he will be seeking the party nomination.
Giving his views on the North, Mr Mitchell said the country "must be prepared to end the mental partition that segregates the people of Ireland, by respecting those who see things from a different perspective".
Mr Mitchell said that making legislation was not the role of the President.
"But he or she, by networking with the community, can make a visual statement about the type of inclusion and forward looking society we can be," he said.
"I hope that by example I can help others to start on a new journey in search of values that will take us through 2016 and all that iconic year will stand for," he added.
"I want to be President of an Ireland that has a true republican spirit."
Mr Mitchell said his "life's journey" had taken him from the home of his widowed mother in Inchicore to the Dail, the Mansion House, Iveagh House and Brussels.
"From the President's study in the Aras, which I visited many times as minister, the floodlights of CIE Works, where I worked as a boy, are visible as a clear landmark.
"If I am elected President, this landmark shall be a daily reminder of where I came from and that my sworn duty is to serve the welfare of the people as well as to uphold the Constitution and the law," Mr Mitchell said.
Meanwhile, Ms McGuinness said she was "as determined as ever" to win.
She first announced her interest in April, and said she has already had a "terrific response" from TDs, councillors and senators she has canvassed.
Ms McGuinness described Mr Mitchell as a "well-respected and long-standing member of the party", and said that he had alerted her before making public his intention to run.