President Mary McAleese has dissolved the 30th Dáil, and the Government has set Friday 25 February as the date for the General Election.

Mr Cowen announced last night that he will not be contesting the election.


Live updates:

2204 Taoiseach Brian Cowen's brother, Councillor Barry Cowen, has been chosen by Fianna Fail tonight to contest the next election in the Laois-Offaly constituency.

Mr Cowen was selected alongside John Moloney and Sean Fleming after a convention in Tullamore chose to run three party candidates in the constituency.

1946 Some of the departing TDs spoke to Samantha Libreri outside the Dáil earlier today. Watch the video

1938 Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore said that for the first time in the 90-year history of the State we have an opportunity for a Labour-led government.

He said that many people had already made changes in their own lives, either through losing their jobs or seeing their wages cut and as a result there was a real need for change.

He said the Labour Party would be fighting the election campaign on three platforms - jobs, reform of the political system and fairness in areas like education, health and in framing budgets.

Asked about the EU/IMF deal and his description of it as a straitjacket, Mr Gilmore said that Labour would not be accepting the straitjacket.

He said his party wanted to renegotiate the deal and wanted the Irish electorate to give it a mandate to do that.

1918 Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin has said there are three pillars to the party's election campaign - getting the public finances in line by 2014, job creation and the radical change of the country's parliamentary, electoral and governmental systems to ensure that the same mistakes are not made again.

Mr Martin said that under the EU/IMF deal, which he said was effectively a loan of about €50bn, there was significant room for the prioritisation of key areas.

He said that was why Fianna Fáil had prioritised capital expenditure in enterprise, research and development and in projects like Metro North which would result in job creation.

He said the 'detailed, credible’ plan put forward in Fianna Fáil's four-year recovery strategy detailed how the country could come out of the crisis and ensure economic recovery.

1900 Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny has said there were five simple points to his party's election strategy - job creation and protection, tackling the banking and fiscal policy, sorting out the health service, improving the delivery of public services and taking a scalpel to the cost of Government.

Mr Kenny criticised the EU/IMF bailout saying that it was a bad deal which had involved no political negotiation.

He said that he and his Finance Spokesperson Michael Noonan had gone to Brussels last week to signal Fine Gael's intent to renegotiate of what he called the deal’s ‘crushing' interest rate and secondly in respect of the 'catastrophic' banking policy which is at the heart of the deal.

1807 A Nigerian man who became Ireland's first black mayor four years ago has announced this evening that he is running in the General Election.

Rotimi Adebari is to run as an independent candidate in the Laois-Offaly constituency.

Councillor Adebari was elected Mayor of Portlaoise in 2007.

1735 A running mate of Taoiseach Brian Cowen in the last General Election who was nominated to contest the poll on 25 February has resigned from Fianna Fáil after a dispute over the party's strategy in the Laois-Offaly constituency.

Cllr John Foley from Edenderry polled 5,899 first preference votes in the election in 2007 but now says he will run as an independent in the forthcoming General Election because of the party's failure to allow two candidates from Co Offaly to contest the election.

This evening's development is seen as a significant blow to Fianna Fail's campaign to retain a seat in Offaly where the Taoiseach's brother Barry Cowen is now expected to be nominated by the party to contest the election.

1725 Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore has said it is his party's objective to lead the next government and he reiterated that the Labour Party could gain more than 50 seats in the election.

Speaking at the party's headquarters in Dublin, he said he also said he believes he could be Taoiseach.

He believed it was the most important election in his lifetime, as it was not just about the next four years but the direction of the country for the next quarter of a century.

1629 Taoiseach Brian Cowen has left Áras an Uachtaráin following the formal disolution of the 30th Dail.

He and his family posed for photographs but he made no comments to the waiting media.

1613 Sinn Féin's Caoimghín Ó Caoláin says Gerry Adams will participate in any Leaders' Debates on the party's behalf.

1605 The Government has confirmed the General Election will be held on Friday 25 February.

1559 President Mary McAleese and Taoiseach Brian Cowen sign the proclamation of dissolution.

1549 The car carrying Taoiseach Brian Cowen has arrived at Áras an Uachtaráin.

1546 Labour Party TD Mary Upton says she is looking forward to people with fresh ideas and new attitudes, giving a new impetus and new life to the whole political system.

The Dublin South Central TD is retiring after 11 years in Dáil Eireann.

She said today during that time she ‘gave it her best shot’.

1538 Taoiseach Brian Cowen has left Government Buildings and is making his way to Áras an Uachtaráin.

1527 David McCullagh: The election date will be confirmed later by Environment Minister Éamon O Cuiv, although this morning he said Friday the 25th of February was the most likely day for voters to go to the polls.

Once the formalities are over, it's game on for the political parties, who'll spend the next three and a half weeks seeking every vote they can get.

1523 'The Dáil now stands adjourned' - Seamus Kirk brings the proceedings of the 30th Dáil to a close.

1522 Mr Ó Caoláin called on all parties to make clear that the EU/IMF deal was not fair or acceptable.

'The outgoing government made disastrous decisions.'

1521 'We have one of the worst governments ever seen, not only in this country, but anywhere'

1519 We need to stop the attacks on the incomes of families struggling to survive - Caoimghín Ó Caoláin

'We need policy based on commitment - no careerism'

'The Irish people need a new Dáil that will put the people first'

1517 'It's a pity you had to breach litter laws by putting up posters early.’ Gormley tells Lucinda Creighton as he finishes his address.

1516 John Gormley says he is proud of the measures his party has brought in. He said the programme of political reform should continue.

He said it is clear the political system 'has not served the people of this country well'.

Mr Gormley said he does not believe a Fine Gael and Labour coalition will work, and that he expects 'false promises' and 'false hope' will dominate the election campaign.

1510 Mr Gormley highlights the fact that a ban on political donations has not yet been enacted. He asks will the next government bring it in.

1509 Bryan Dobson: Gormley says we will get 'tweedle dumb and tweedle dumber'.

1507 'Politics has been denigrated for too long, as have civil servants,' says John Gormley.

'The big question is now, what more needs to be done?'

1504 The Labour leader wants change (using the word 20 times in his speech). 'That is what this election is all about. Change ... To change from being the victims of change to being the drivers of change'

1503 Bryan Dobson: The second election speech of the afternoon from Eamon Gilmore...

1502 'Yes, we have problems, grave problems. But nobody, and especially ourselves, should ever doubt what we are capable of. Our abilities are far greater then our problems. ' Eamon Gilmore

1500 As Enda Kenny concludes his address, Eamon Gilmore rises to his feet.

'I welcome the fact that at long last the people of Ireland will have their say in a General Election which is long overdue. '

1458 While paying tribute to Brian Cowen's personal integrity, Enda Kenny branded the Government that Mr Cowen presided over as the worst in living memory, displaying serious political misjudgement.

He vowed to replace the old government of indifference with a new government of insight.

He again repeated his intention to have a single-chamber political system with a strong committee arm.

1457 'What people need is reassurance that politics can and will work.'

1454 'We will make Ireland the best small country in the world in which to do business’ says Enda Kenny as he outlines some Fine Gael campaign promises.

1450 Mr Kenny says no-one who has been in Government will be able to dodge their responsibility for sending the country into the arms of the IMF.

1449 Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny begins his speech.

1448 The Taoiseach gets a warm round of applause at the conclusion of the speech.

1447 David McCullagh: The new Dáil will meet at noon on Wednesday the 9th of March.

1447 Mr Cowen said the election should be about policies and not personalities. His family are present in the visitors' gallery to hear the address.

1446 Mr Cowen says he will head to Áras an Uachtaráin to advise the President to dissolve the Dáil and to summon the incoming Dáil to meet at 12.00 midday on Wednesday 9 March.

1445 The Taoiseach says that the common good was always at the forefront of his decisions.

1444 Bryan Dobson: Taoiseach's wife Mary and daughter in the visitors' gallery

Mr Cowen says his time as Taoiseach has been a period of great 'trial and test'.

1441 Michael D Higgins says he hopes to be the Labour candidate for the presidency when the party makes its decision after the General Election.

Today is his last day in Leinster House, as he is retiring. He spent 25 years in Dáil Éireann and nine years in the Seanad.

He told reporters he will not be leaving the political space, and he hopes to be spreading out across the country later in year.

1439 The Taoiseach says politicians have a duty to not talk the country down and that there are still many reasons to be optimistic about the future.

1435 Mr Cowen begins his address to the House.

1433 Taoiseach Brian Cowen has entered the Dáil Chamber and is about to being his speech.

1421 David McCullagh: In what's expected to be a relatively short speech, Taoiseach Brian Cowen - who isn't contesting the election - will say his farewells to politics.

The leaders of the other parties will also get an opportunity to make short contributions, before Mr Cowen goes to Áras an Uachtaráin to request President McAleese to dissolve the Dáil.

1420 Caoimghín Ó Caoláin said Sinn Féin is proud that the party has played 'a not inconsiderable part' in bringing an end to the 30th Dáil.

He said part of this involved standing up for the rights of people in Donegal South West in the High Court.

'There was no doubt that Sinn Féin will be returning with increased TDs after the election.'

Brian Cowen will not contest Laois/Offaly seat

The Taoiseach said his decision not to contest the election was a momentous one for him and that he had not been asked to do so by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

Mr Cowen's brother Barry confirmed that he will be putting himself forward for selection to contest the Laois-Offaly constituency.

Minister of State John Moloney has also said he will be seeking a position on the Fianna Fáil ticket, but will act in accordance with the party's wishes.

Mr Moloney has been nominated to contest at the selection convention in Tullamore tonight.

Fianna Fáil TD for Laois-Offaly Sean Fleming said the 'political landscape' of the constituency had changed after Brian Cowen's decision.