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Saturday, January 4, 2014

Members of the Nineteenth Dáil - Bernard Cowen

Bernard F. "Ber" Cowen (29 January 1932 – 24 January 1984) was an Irish Fianna Fáil politician who was elected five times to Dáil Éireann.

Born in Clara, County Offaly, Cowen was the son of Christy Cowen, a cattle dealer and Fianna Fáil member who served on Offaly County Council from 1932 until his death in 1967. Cowen was educated at Clara national school and subsequently attended Tullamore CBS. After completion of his secondary schooling he worked as an auctioneer before later becoming a publican.

Cowen first became involved in politics in 1967 when he was co-opted onto Offaly County Council following the death of his father. Later that year he headed the poll in the Tullamore area and retained his seat until his death.

Cowen was first elected to Dáil Éireann as a Fianna Fáil Teachta Dála (TD) for Laois–Offaly at the 1969 general election. Fianna Fáil returned to government for the fourth successive time following a general election, however, as a new TD Cowen remained on the backbenches. He lost his seat at the 1973 general election as a Fine Gael-Labour coalition government was formed. Cowen, however, was subsequently elected to the 13th Seanad by the Agricultural Panel.

Cowen returned to the Dáil following the 1977 general election, when Fianna Fáil returned to power in a landslide. Once again he remained on the backbenches.

In 1979, Jack Lynch resigned as Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil leader. Charles Haughey, who was supported by Cowen, won the subsequent leadership election. In spite of offering his support Cowen failed to secure promotion to ministerial office.

A period of political instability followed with three general elections being held throughout 1981 and 1982. Cowen retained his seat in all of these elections. In March 1982 he was finally promoted to junior ministerial level, when he was appointed Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture with special responsibility for disadvantaged areas. He held that position until December of the same year when Fianna Fáil lost power.

While attending a meeting of Offaly County Council in January 1984 Cowen was taken ill. He was taken to St. Vincent's Hospital in Dublin and died several days later on 24 January 1984. He was survived by his wife, Mary, and three sons. The consequent by-election for his seat in the 24th Dáil was won by his second son, Brian Cowen, who went on to serve as Taoiseach from 2008 to 2011. In 2011, Bernard Cowen's youngest son, Barry Cowen, was elected to the seat previously held by his father and brother, having previously been a Fianna Fáil county councillor for Clara.

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