seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Death of Bernard Cowen, Fianna Fáil Politician

Bernard Francis Cowen, Irish Fianna Fáil politician who serves as Minister of State for Disadvantaged Areas from March 1982 to December 1982, dies on January 24, 1984 at Donnybrook, Dublin. He serves as a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Laois–Offaly constituency from 1969 to 1973 and 1977 to 1984. He is a Senator for the Agricultural Panel from 1973 to 1977.

Born on January 29, 1932, in Clara, County Offaly, Cowen is the son of Christy Cowen, a cattle dealer and a Fianna Fáil member who served as a member of Offaly County Council from 1932 until his death in 1967. He is educated at Clara National School and subsequently attends Tullamore CBS. After completion of his secondary schooling he works in the family business which includes a public house and a butcher shop. He later becomes an auctioneer.

Cowen first becomes involved in politics in 1967, when he is co-opted onto Offaly County Council, following the death of his father. Later that year he heads the poll in the Tullamore area and retains his seat until his death.

Cowen is first elected to Dáil Éireann as a Fianna Fáil TD for Laois–Offaly constituency at the 1969 Irish general election. Fianna Fáil returns to government for the fourth successive time following a general election, however, as a new TD, he remains on the backbenches. He loses his seat at the 1973 Irish general election as a Fine GaelLabour coalition government is formed. However, he is subsequently elected to the 13th Seanad for the Agricultural Panel.

Cowen returns to the Dáil following the 1977 Irish general election, when Fianna Fáil returns to power in a landslide. Once again he remains on the backbenches.

In 1979, Jack Lynch resigns as Taoiseach and Leader of Fianna Fáil. Cowen supports the bid of Charles Haughey for the leadership. Haughey wins the subsequent leadership election. In spite of offering his support, Cowen fails to secure promotion to ministerial office.

A period of political instability follows with three general elections being held throughout 1981 and 1982. Cowen retains his seat in all of these elections. In March 1982, he is finally promoted to junior ministerial level, when he is appointed Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture with special responsibility for disadvantaged areas. He holds that position until December of the same year, when Fianna Fáil loses power.

While attending a meeting of Offaly County Council in January 1984, Cowen is taken ill. He is taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin where he dies several days later on January 24, 1984. He is survived by his wife, Mary, and three sons. The consequent by-election for his seat in the 24th Dáil, is won by his second son, Brian, who goes on to serve as Taoiseach from 2008 to 2011. In 2011, Cowen’s youngest son, Barry, is elected to the seat previously held by his father and brother, having previously been an Offaly County Councillor for the Tullamore electoral area.


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Birth of Brian Cowen, Former Taoiseach & Leader of Fianna Fáil

Brian Cowen, Irish former politician who is Taoiseach and Leader of Fianna Fáil from 2008 to 2011, is born in Tullamore, County Offaly, on January 10, 1960.

Cowen is exposed to politics at a young age. His grandfather was a councillor in the Fianna Fáil party, and his father, Bernard Cowen, held a seat in Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Oireachtas (Irish parliament). He is an exemplary debater in school and often speaks at his father’s election rallies. He studies at University College Dublin and at the Incorporated Law Society of Ireland, where he is trained as a solicitor. His father’s death in 1984 prompts a by-election for the seat he had held in the Dáil. At the age of 24, he captures the seat, becoming one of the youngest members ever to sit in the Dáil.

Cowen’s political mentor is Albert Reynolds, who becomes Taoiseach in 1992 when Fianna Fáil is in a coalition government with the Progressive Democrats. He is an outspoken critic of the coalition, famously stating about the Progressive Democrats, “When in doubt, leave them out!” He serves as Minister for Labour (1992–93), and in 1993, after the breakup of the Fianna Fáil–Progressive Democrats government, he helps to negotiate the short-lived coalition of Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party. He then serves as Minister for Transport, Energy, and Communications (1993–94), leaving office after Fianna Fáil is forced into opposition by the formation of a Fine Gael–Labour–Democratic Left coalition.

During Fianna Fáil’s years out of government, Cowen serves successively as opposition Spokesperson for Agriculture, Food, and Forestry (1994–97) and Spokesperson for Health (1997). Following elections in 1997, Fianna Fáil leader Bertie Ahern forms a coalition government with the Progressive Democrats, and the party once again returns to power. Cowen serves as Minister for Health and Children (1997–2000), Minister for Foreign Affairs (2000–04), and Minister for Finance (2004–08). In June 2007 he was appointed Tánaiste.

Cowen is known for his sharp tongue and sometimes rough-hewn manner, but he is also recognized for his fierce intelligence, wit, and jovial demeanour. A combative politician and loyal party member, he is for many years seen as an obvious successor to Ahern. In April 2008, amid an investigation into possible past financial misconduct, Ahern announces that he will resign as Taoiseach and Leader of Fianna Fáil the following month. Cowen, who had remained supportive of Ahern throughout, is elected Leader of Fianna Fáil in April 2008. He becomes Taoiseach the following month and is faced with leading the country amid the global financial crisis that creates Ireland’s worst economy since the 1930s.

Cowen’s government oversees the bailout of Ireland’s banking system, which had been thrown into crisis by the collapse of the housing market, but the rescue comes at the cost of a skyrocketing deficit. As the country’s economic difficulties deepen, he seeks a cure that he hopes would obviate the need of foreign intervention, proposing an increase in income taxes and cuts in services. In November 2010, however, as concern for Ireland’s financial stability grows among its eurozone partners, he agrees to accept a bailout of more than $100 million from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. There is concern in Ireland that one condition for foreign aid might be an increase in Ireland’s comparatively low corporate taxes. The Green Party, Fianna Fáil’s junior partner in the governing coalition, responds to the situation by calling for early elections.

In mid-January 2011 Cowen’s leadership of Fianna Fáil is challenged by Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin, partly in response to rumours that had swirled of a golf course meeting that had taken place between the Taoiseach and the former head of the Anglo Irish Bank before the government’s bailout of the Irish banking industry. He survives a leadership vote, but about one-third of the party’s parliamentary bloc votes against him. In a rapid succession of events that occur over the course of a few days, an unsuccessful reshuffle of the cabinet follows the resignation of six cabinet ministers, after which Cowen calls for an election to be held on March 11 and then announces that he will step down as party leader but continue as caretaker Taoiseach until the election. The Green Party then withdraws from the ruling coalition, forcing an even earlier election. Waiting until the parliament passes a finance bill that is necessary to meet the conditions of an International Monetary Fund–European Union loan but which imposes austerity measures that had proved very unpopular with much of the Irish public, he officially calls the election for February 25. Martin takes over as the Leader of Fianna Fáil, which suffers a crushing defeat in the election at the hands of Fine Gael.

In May 2014, Cowen becomes part of the board of Topaz Energy. He is appointed to the board of Beacon Hospital in February 2015. In July 2017, he is conferred with an honorary doctorate from the National University of Ireland. During his 50-minute acceptance speech he criticises the EU for its behaviour towards Ireland during the financial crisis and expresses regret that so many jobs were lost during the recession. Following the conferring ceremony, the NUI faces considerable public criticism for deciding to make the award to Cowen. Former (and founding) President of the University of Limerick, Edward M. Walsh, announces that he will hand back his own honorary doctorate in protest, and does so on November 14, 2018.

On July 5, 2019, Cowen is admitted to Beacon Hospital after suffering a major brain hemorrhage. He is then transferred to St. Vincent’s University Hospital where he spends five months before transferring to a physical rehabilitation facility. As of late 2020, while he is still in hospital following a stroke the previous year, he has been making steady progress.