Brian Cowen, 1960– Irish political leader, prime minister of the Repubic of Ireland (2008–11). A lawyer from a family long involved in Fianna Fáil politics, he was first elected to the Irish parliament in 1984, winning his late father's seat. In the 1990s Cowen was minister for labor (1992–93), transport, energy, and communications (1993–94), and health and children (1997–2000) before becoming foreign affairs minister in 2000. In 2004 he became finance minister, and in 2007 he also became deputy prime minister under Bertie Ahern. The following year he succeeded Ahern as prime minister when the latter resigned. By late 2010 prolonged recession, the nationalization of failing Irish banks, and the need to impose severe budget austerities and accept an international rescue package had brought his government near to collapse. The failure of an attempted cabinet reshuffle (Jan., 2011) forced him to resign as party leader and call an early election, which his party lost; he did not stand for reelection.
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