The Hon. Brian Cowen
Former Prime Minister of Ireland
President, Advisory Board of the ICD
Brian Cowen (Former Prime Minister of Ireland)
Brian Cowen, (born Jan. 10, 1960, Tullamore, County Offaly, Ire.), Irish politician who was tánaiste (deputy prime minister) of Ireland (2007–08), leader of Fianna Fáil (2008–11), and taoiseach (prime minister) of Ireland (2008–11).
Cowen was 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, the Irish parliament). Brian Cowen was an exemplary debater in school and often spoke at his father’s election rallies. He studied at University College Dublin and at the Incorporated Law Society of Ireland, where he was trained as a solicitor. His father’s death in 1984 prompted a by-election for the seat he had held in the Dáil. Cowen, then age 24, captured the seat, becoming one of the youngest members ever to sit in the Dáil.
He served as minister for labour (1992–93), and in 1993, after the breakup of the Fianna Fáil–Progressive Democrats government, he helped to negotiate the short-lived coalition of Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party. Cowen then served as minister for transport, energy, and communications (1993–94), leaving office after Fianna Fáil was forced into opposition by the formation of a Fine Gael–Labour–Democratic Left coalition.
During Fianna Fáil’s years out of government, Cowen served as opposition spokesperson for agriculture, food, and forestry (1994–97) and for health (1997). Following elections in 1997, Fianna Fáil leader Bertie Ahern formed a coalition government with the Progressive Democrats, and the party once again returned to power. Cowen served as minister for health and children (1997–2000), for foreign affairs (2000–04), and for finance (2004–08). In June 2007 he was appointed tánaiste.
In April 2008, he was elected head of Fianna Fáil. He became taoiseach the following month and was faced with leading the country amid the global financial crisis until February 2011.