Cowen set to be elected Taoiseach

Sun, Apr 6, 2008, 01:00

Brian Cowen is set to become the seventh leader of Fianna Fail and Taoiseach next week, it was confirmed yesterday afternoon after nominations for the leadership of the party closed.

Fianna Fail chief whip Tom Kitt said the Minister for Finance and Tanaiste was the only person to put his name forward to succeed Bertie Ahern on May 6th.

Mr Cowen will be formally declared leader of Fianna Fail at a meeting of the parliamentary party on Wednesday.

In a statement Mr Cowen said he was deeply honoured by the confidence shown in him by the members of the parliamentary party.

“It is a reflection of the support of the wider Fianna Fail membership throughout the country,” the Laois-Offaly TD said. “I am grateful for that overwhelming endorsement of my candidacy for the leadership of the party at this time.”

Mr Cowen, 48, was the runaway favourite to succeed Bertie Ahern after the Taoiseach declared his intention to stand down. One by one potential candidates such as Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern, Enterprise Minister Micheal Martin, Education Minister Mary Hanafin and Transport Minister Noel Dempsey ruled themselves out and backed Mr Cowen, who has held three senior posts in government.

However his coronation as Fianna Fail leader seemed inevitable when Mr Ahern described him last June as his obvious successor.

The son of former Fianna Fail TD Bernard Cowen, he was elected to the Dail in 1984 at the age of 24 in Laois-Offaly after his father’s death. Over the years, he acquired a reputation as a formidable political operator.

In 1992, after the fall of Charles Haughey, he was appointed by the then Taoiseach Albert Reynolds to the post for Minister for Labour and a year later became Minister for Energy.

In 1994, Mr Cowen became Transport, Energy and Communications Minister until the collapse of the Fianna Fail-Labour coalition government.

When Fianna Fail returned to office in 1997 under the leadership of Bertie Ahern, he was appointed Minister for Health — a portfolio he memorably dubbed “Angola”.

Three years later he was promoted to Foreign Minister — a post he held for four years and which placed him at the heart of negotiations dealing with the collapse of devolution at Stormont and also IRA decommissioning.

In 2004, Mr Cowen moved to another key cabinet post as Minister for Finance and added the title of Tanaiste to it after Fianna Fail remained for a third successive government.

A conservative politician by nature he will have to find someone to take over from him at the Department of Finance on May 6 but is not expected to radically reshuffle the cabinet.