Cowen to consider political future
Taoiseach Brian Cowen will decide this weekend whether to bring down the curtain on his political career.
Mr Cowen will dissolve the Dail parliament on Tuesday and name the date for the most eagerly awaited general election in decades.
The Taoiseach revealed he will discuss his future plans with family and advisers over the next few days amid speculation he is preparing to retire.
Mr Cowen, who stepped down as leader of the ruling Fianna Fail party last Saturday, said he wanted to address the Dail before calling the election.
"It will give me the opportunity to say some things before we do that," he said. "It's really a question of using the Dail as the appropriate forum for that announcement."
The Dail will reconvene at 2.30pm on Tuesday with Mr Cowen's statement and expected remarks from the leaders of Opposition parties Fine Gael, Labour, Sinn Fein and the Greens, who pulled out of coalition on Sunday triggering the early election. The Taoiseach will then attend President Mary McAleese's residence, Aras an Uachtarain in the Phoenix Park, and ask her to formally dissolve parliament.
In an interview with Irish language broadcaster Raidio na Gaeltachta, Mr Cowen said he would take the weekend to decide his future, with a selection convention for his Laois/Offaly constituency planned for Tuesday night.
The election is widely expected to deliver a damaging defeat to the ruling Fianna Fail party, the country's biggest political organisation, as it languishes in third place in opinion polls, neck-and-neck with Sinn Fein. At 14%, the party's rating is a record low and the next Red C poll is due in this weekend's Sunday Business Post.
The Seanad is due to sign-off on the minority Government's final act to put Budget 2011 into law, clearing the way for the early election, widely expected to be held on Friday, February 25.
The Finance Bill passed all stages in the Dail this week when independents Michael Lowry and Jackie Healy-Rae secured last minute changes after they threatened to jettison the legislation.