Cowen, Going, Gone

An Taoiseach Brian Cowen has announced he is to retire from politics and will not stand in the upcoming general election.

Mr Cowen, who has led the Fianna Fail party and the Dáil as Taoiseach since taking over from Bertie Ahern in May 2008, announced his decision last night saying he had "reflected" on his position.

Speaking last night, Mr Cowen said: "Having considered the situation with my family, close colleagues and friends over the past number of days, I have decided not to put my name forward for selection as a candidate in the Laois-Offaly constituency for the forthcoming election."

In his relatively short resignation speech, Mr Cowen devoted most of his attention to thanking his colleagues, constituents and family and made special mention of his late constituency secretary, Patricia Johnson who had "many years of dedicated service to both my father and I".

Responding to the departure, the party's new leader Michael Martin said he wanted to extend his best wishes to the Taoiseach and his family.

Mr Martin said Brian Cowen had been a friend for many years and that he would always admire his "sincere commitment" and the sizeable contribution he has made to Irish public life.

"He has served in almost every major department of state and he leaves behind a legacy of achievement in each of them. He has given a high example in public service and he is a politician who has been motivated by the common good.

"He has served as Taoiseach in extraordinarily difficult circumstances and he has done his utmost on behalf of the people of this country. Many of the decisions he has made have put in place a solid foundation upon which our economy recovery is being built."

Brian Cowen has served as a TD for the Laois–Offaly constituency since 1984. He has served in a number of ministerial posts since the early nineties, including Minister for Labour, Minister for Energy, Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications, Minister for Health and Children, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister for Finance and also as Tánaiste.

However, Mr Cowen's tenure will be most closely associated with his presiding over both the financial and banking crisis, for which he has attracted vigorous criticism. He will be the first sitting Taoiseach in the history of the State not to contest a general election, and it is unlikely that his work during the ongoing economic collapse will be remembered fondly by the history books, with the Irish Independent naming him the "worst Taoiseach in the history of the State."

The Irish Independent also revealed this morning that Mr Cowen will retire on a severance package worth €300,000.


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