Brian Bernard Cowen is a former Irish Fianna Fáil politician who served as Taoiseach from 2008 to 2011, Leader of Fianna Fáil from 2008 to 2011, Minister for Foreign Affairs from January 2011 to March 2011 and 2000 to 2004, Minister for Defence from February 2011 to March 2011, Tánaiste from 2007 to 2008, Deputy Leader of Fianna Fáil from 2002 to 2008, Minister for Finance from 2004 to 2008, Minister for Health and Children from 1997 to 2000, Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications from 1993 to 1994, Minister for Energy in January 1993 and Minister for Labour from 1992 to 1993. He served as a Teachta Dála (TD) for Laois–Offaly from 1984 to 2011.
He became leader of Fianna Fáil upon the resignation of Bertie Ahern. On 7 May 2008, following the resignation of Ahern as Taoiseach, Cowen was nominated by Dáil Éireann to replace him and was appointed by the President later that day. His administration coincided with the Irish financial and banking crises. He has received substantial criticism for his failure to stem the tide of either crisis, ultimately culminating in his government’s formal request for financial rescue from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, widely seen in Ireland as a national humiliation. Cowen’s leadership saw public support for Fianna Fáil plunge to record lows, as well as the lowest public support on record for both a sitting Irish government and a sitting Taoiseach. With approval at 8 percent, by the time the 30th Dáil was dissolved, he was the least popular incumbent politician in the history of Irish opinion polling.
In January 2011, following a failed and highly controversial attempt at a cabinet reshuffle and facing growing political pressure, Cowen resigned as leader of Fianna Fáil, but stayed on as Taosieach until the election held later that year. A month later, he announced he would retire from politics at that election.