Politics honourable profession', says Cowen


THE 30TH Dáil was dissolved by President Mary McAleese yesterday at the request of Taoiseach Brian Cowen.

Mr Cowen informed the Dáil yesterday afternoon that he was invoking the powers under article 13 of the Constitution to dissolve the Dáil and said the 31st Dáil would meet on Wednesday, March 9th.

The Taoiseach then travelled to Áras an Uachtaráin to ask the President to make the formal announcement. Mrs McAleese formally dissolved the Dáil at the conclusion of a short ceremony just after 4pm.

Shortly afterwards, Minister for Local Government Éamon Ó Cuív announced the election date as February 25th. Clerk of the Dáil Kieran Coughlan issued a writ to the returning officers of all 43 constituencies instructing them to hold an election.

In his valedictory speech to the Dáil, Mr Cowen said he had been a TD for 27 years. At the age of 24 he had succeeded his late father, Ber, for whom he felt nothing but gratitude and “who gave me a great grounding in politics and public service”. Mr Cowen said the overriding objective of his political career had been to do the best for the Irish people.

“Politics is public service. It’s an honourable profession. I say that with conviction and sincerely and also from experience. I have no time for cynics who belittle public life.” He said the choice facing the Irish people in the election was a fundamental one, but he said he did not wish to indulge in a partisan debate in his final speech.

“I urge the people to examine the policies being advanced by each of the parties and vote accordingly.

“This election should not be about personality,” he said. “All parties bear the responsibility to be honest with the Irish people. All have a duty to give confidence to people and not to talk Ireland down for short-term political gain.” Mr Cowen said governments in which he had served had had many achievements, but he said the peaceful resolution of the Northern Troubles was the biggest: “Peace is priceless,” he said.

He added that his 2½ years as Taoiseach had been a very testing time and a time of great tribulation for him and his Government. “I believe we all worked hard to correct past failures and secure the future of the country.” He said his motivation had always been in the interests of the people and the common good and he stayed true to that throughout every day of his public life.

Mr Cowen concluded his speech in Irish: “Dá fhad é an lá titeann an oíche [no matter how long the day, night will fall].”

He then quoted the Irish poet Antoine Ó Raifteirí: “Anois teacht an Earraigh, beidh an lá dul chun síneadh [Now that spring is here, the days will be getting longer].”

In his speech, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny wished Mr Cowen well but said Fianna Fáil would not be able to deny responsibility for driving Ireland into the arms of the IMF. He described Mr Cowen’s Government as the worst in living memory.

Labour’s Eamon Gilmore said he welcomed the fact that at long last the people of Ireland would have their say in a general election. He said he and Mr Cowen had clashed in robust debate and that Mr Cowen had stood by his views. “The case will be put to the verdict of the people in three weeks’ time to decide the future of the country,” he said.

John Gormley of the Green Party said he had been proud to have served in Government. He said he did not believe a Fine Gael- Labour government would result in a significant change.