Brian Cowen

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The Irish Minister for FinanceBrian Cowen, TD
The Irish Minister for Finance
Brian Cowen, TD

Brian Cowen (born January 10, 1960) is a senior Irish Fianna Fáil politician. He is currently a Teachta Dála (TD) for Laois Offaly and Minister for Finance. Cowen has previously served as Minister for Labour (1992-1993), Minister for Energy (1993), Minister for Transport, Energy & Communications (1993-1994), Minister for Health & Children (1997-2000) and Minister for Foreign Affairs (2000-2004). He is also the Deputy-Leader of Fianna Fáil.


Early & Private Life

Cowen was born in Clara, County Offaly, the son of Bernard Cowen, a former Fianna Fáil TD and Senator. Cowen was educated at Clara National School, Ard Scoil Naomh Chiaráin, Cistercian College in Roscrea, Mount St. Joseph's College and University College Dublin where he studied law. He qualified as a solicitor from the Incorporated Law Society of Ireland, Dublin.

Cowen was elected to Dáil Éireann in the Laois Offaly by-election in 1984, caused by the death of his father. He was also appointed to Offaly County Council in the same year, serving on that authority until 1992.

Cowen is married to Mary Molloy and has two daughters.

Political life

Cowen remained on the backbenches until 1991 when he alligned himself to Albert Reynolds and the Country & Western grouping - so called for Reynold's dance hall fortune and their seats being outside Dublin - which tried to bring Reynolds to power. Reynolds succeeded on his second attempt to become leader when Charles Haughey retired as Taoiseach in 1992. As a result Cowen was rewarded for his support by being appointed Minister for Labour. The following year a new Fianna Fáil-Labour Party coalition came to power. Cowen remained in the Cabinet, first becoming Minister for Energy and later Minister for Transport, Energy & Communications.

In 1994 Reynolds resigned as leader, Fianna Fáil were out of power and Bertie Ahern became the new leader of the Party. In the new Front Bench that was announced Cowen was appointed Spokesperson on Agriculture, Food & Forestry and later he became Spokesperson on Health. When Fianna Fáil returned to power in 1997 Cowen became Minister for Health & Children. Having received what many describe as the most thankless portfolio in the Cabinet Cowen was relieved to be promoted to Minister for Foreign Affairs in January 2000. Having dealt with a prolonged nurses strike Cowen himself described his period in the Health portfolio as like being in "Angola." Brian Cowen's tenure as Foreign Minister has seen extensive negotiations continue regarding the Northern Ireland peace process and various other international activities. In 2004 he played a large role during Ireland's Presidency of the European Council.


In 2003 Cowen was the victim of a bizarre personal attack by the leader of Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party Ian Paisley, an outspoken critic of the Republic of Ireland and its government. In front of a crowd of party supporters and in the presence of television cameras and radio reporters, Paisley launched into a diatribe about Cowen's personal appearance (making reference to Cowen's mother as well), much to the obvious embarrassment of his more moderate supporters and to the discomfort of his senior party colleagues. Cowen didn't rise to the bait, however, and the entire episode has served to heighten the gulf between Paisley and more balanced voices within Northern Irish unionism. Cowen's detractors refer to him as "BIFFO" - the polite explanation is that this is short for "big ignorant fellow from Offaly".

Minister for Finace

In September, 2004 the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern announced his long awaited Cabinet reshuffle. Following the departure of Charlie McCreevy it was no secret that Cowen was destined to succeed him in the top Cabinet position as Minister for Finance. On December 1, 2004 Cowen announced his first budget, a budget that was generally seen as a give-away budget, the first of three in the run-up to the expected general election in 2007.

The future

Both Brian Cowen and his Cabinet colleague, Micheál Martin, are seen as the two possible contenders to succeed Bertie Ahern as leader of Fianna Fáil. Cowen is seen as the "heir-apparent" and as Ahern's preferred successor. This was evident in his appointment as Deputy-Leader of Fianna Fáil in 2002. However, Cowen is reluctant to comment on his political ambition and has stated that he is satisfied serving as a Cabinet Minister at the moment.

Political Career

Preceded by:
Michael O'Kennedy
Minister for Labour
Succeeded by:
Mervyn Taylor
Preceded by:
Albert Reynolds
Minister for Energy
Succeeded by:
Charlie McCreevy
Preceded by:
Charlie McCreevy
Minister for Transport, Energy & Communications
Succeeded by:
Michael Lowry
Preceded by:
Michael Noonan
Minister for Health & Children
Succeeded by:
Micheál Martin
Preceded by:
David Andrews
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by:
Dermot Ahern
Preceded by:
Charlie McCreevy
Minister for Finance
Succeeded by:
Current Incumbent

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