Ireland: Cowen will not stand at election

Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowen will not contest the general election, he announced last night.

Mr Cowen's political future had been in doubt after he stepped down as leader of the ruling Fianna Fail party just over a week ago.

He said that after consulting with his family he would not stand again in his Laois/Offaly constituency.

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Mr Cowen, 51, said: "I have to take things into consideration now in the context of the fact of having been Taoiseach and leader of the party and former leader and giving a break to the new leader."

He said he also took his family into consideration.

The outgoing Taoiseach said new Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin did not ask him to stand down. "It was not a question of Micheal expecting me to stand aside," Mr Cowen said.

Mr Cowen will dissolve the Dail (parliament) today and name a date for the most eagerly awaited general election in decades.

The Dail will reconvene at 2.30pm with a statement from Mr Cowen and expected remarks from the leaders of Opposition parties Fine Gael, Labour, Sinn Fein and the Greens, who pulled out of coalition the day after Mr Cowen quit as Fianna Fail leader.

The Taoiseach will then attend President Mary McAleese's residence, Aras an Uachtarain in Phoenix Park, and ask her formally to dissolve parliament.

Mr Cowen has served as Taoiseach since 2008.

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