Taoiseach Brian Cowen
The son of a Clara publican, Brian Cowen was born in January 1960.
Educated at Clara National School and later Mount St Joseph College in Roscrea, he qualified as a solicitor after graduating from UCD.
However he entered politics after the death of his father Bernard in 1984.
Bernard Cowen had been a Fianna Fáil TD and Senator, and his 24-year-old son became the youngest member of the 24th Dáil when he succeeded him in a bye-election in Laois-Offaly.
A backbencher for the early years of his political career, Mr Cowen was appointed Minister for Labour under Albert Reynolds in 1992.
Over the following years he served as Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications and Minister for Health and Children - a post he famously regarded as being like 'Angola' because of the political landmines he encountered.
In 2000 he found himself at the heart of Northern Ireland devolution negotiations as Minister for Foreign Affairs. He was appointed Minister for Finance in 2004.
Re-elected to Dáil Éireann in May 2007, he was appointed Tánaiste and retained his position as Minister for Finance.
The 48-year-old, sometimes referred to as 'Biffo' (which he says stands for 'big intelligent fellow from Offaly' although others have their own interpretation), is married with two children, Sinead and Maedhbh. A keen Gaelic football fan, he continues to be president of Clara GAA club.
Described by fellow minister Dick Roche as 'without doubt the brightest mind in Dáil Éireann', Brian Cowen was elected unopposed as the seventh leader of Fianna Fáil on 9 April.
On 7 May, Mr Cowen was confirmed as the State's 12th Taoiseach after a vote in Dáil Eireann.
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