Bertie Ahern has sensationally announced that he will be resigning as Taoiseach and Fianna Fail leader next month.
Mr Ahern made the surprise revelation during a hastily arranged press conference at government buildings this morning.
He admitted that his involvement with the Mahon Tribunal was overshadowing the work of the Government and said he would resign on May 6th, shortly after he gives his historic address to the US Congress.
The development comes amid ongoing controversy over contradictions in his evidence to the Mahon Tribunal about bank lodgements in the 1990s.
Mr Ahern has been under growing pressure since a former secretary at his constituency office admitted that she lodged Sterling on his behalf to accounts in the Irish Permanent.
He had previously told the tribunal that the lodgements were the proceeds of his pay cheques.
He said: "The priority I put above all others was to work for peace on this island, and I have given all to that cause.
"I know in my heart of hearts I have done no wrong and wronged no-one.
"My decision is motivated by what is best for the people. It is a personal decision.
"I will not allow issues related to my own person to dominate the people and the body politic.
"While I will be the first to admit that I've made mistakes in my life and in my career, one mistake I've never made was to enrich myself by misusing the trust of the people.
"I have never received a corrupt payment and I've never done anything to dishonour any office that I've ever held."
Minister for Finance, Brian Cowen said: "In coming to this decision the Taoiseach has once again put the interests of the nation first. I want to thank him for his comradeship his courtesy and his commitment to our political cause.
"Never have those traits been more in evidence than in the decision which he has announced today."
Last week, Green Party leader John Gormley and PD leader Mary Harney both called on Mr Ahern to clarify the matter and dispel public disquiet about the sums of money passing through his bank accounts in the 1990s.
However, several of his Fianna Fail cabinet colleagues have come out steadfast in his support, saying he should not have to explain matters until his next appearance at the tribunal.
- 1951: Born in Dublin
- 1977: Elected to the Dáil
- 1991-1994: Minister for finance
- 1994: Fianna Fáil leader
- 1997: Taoiseach
- 2002: Re-elected
- 2007: Leads Fianna Fáil to third election victory, begins third term as Irish PM