Taoiseach Brian Cowen has announced he will not be contesting the General Election.

Mr Cowen made the announcement on Midlands 103.

Listen to Brian Cowen's interview here (Clip courtesy of Midlands Radio 3)
Read Brian Cowen's statement here

He said he had full support in the county and the preference of his team was that he run in the upcoming election.

He said the issue for him in making up his mind was what direction he wanted to take in life now and also to recognise that he held the highest office in the land during a very difficult three years.

He said he made the decision after consulting with his family over the weekend.

A cumann meeting took place in the Tullamore Court Hotel at 6pm to make final arrangements for tomorrow night's selection convention and to discuss the party strategy.

The Taoiseach said there were no issues between himself and the new Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin.

He added that it would be inaccurate to draw any inference in that regard from his decision not to contest in the election.

Mr Cowen said he would canvass and seek support for the party if requested to do so.

He described the peace process in Northern Ireland as one of the most outstanding events to have taken place during his career in politics.

He said he did regretted the impact of the economic situation on families and communities, but he said these decisions would have to be seen in the context of the Government's plans for economic recovery.

Mr Cowen said he had not decided what he intended to do after he reitred.

In a statement Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said: ‘I want to extend my best wishes to the Taoiseach and his family this evening as he announces his decision not to contest the next General Election.

‘Brian Cowen has been a friend of mine for many years and I will always admire his sincere commitment and the sizeable contribution he has made to Irish public life.

‘He has served in almost every major department of state and he leaves behind a legacy of achievement in each of them. He has given a high example in public service and he is a politician who has been motivated by the common good.

‘He has served as Taoiseach in extraordinarily difficult circumstances and he has done his utmost on behalf of the people of this country. Many of the decisions he has made have put in place a solid foundation upon which our economy recovery is being built.

‘I wish Brian, his wife Mary and their children Sinead and Meadhbh every happiness in the future.’

Uncertainty over Moloney's intentions

There has also been increased uncertainty about whether or not the Fianna Fáil TD in Laois John Moloney will run for re-election.

Last night, Donegal North East TD Niall Blaney said he would not be contesting the election, citing personal reasons for his decision.

Cork North Central TD Noel O'Flynn said he would not run in order to maximise the chances of his constituency colleague Billy Kelleher.

Several ministers an Fianna Fáil TDs have announced their retirement in recent weeks.

Full list of TDs not standing in the General Election