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Lise Hand: Brian bows out but new show has already begun

THE Taoiseach finished reading the poem titled 'For a Leader', and paused before continuing with the final speech of his political career.

"Dá fhad é an lá, titeann an oíche," he told a silent Dail chamber.

No matter how long the day, the night will fall.

And as the curtain fell gratefully on the unloved and unlamented tragi-comedy which was the 30th Dail, the old Irish phrase was an apt coda for what has been Brian Cowen's long day's journey into night.

After all the alarms, frights, shocks, rows, rumbles and recriminations of the long-drawn-out death throes of what had degenerated into a ghastly government, it ended with an 11th-hour semblance of order at 3.24pm yesterday afternoon.

Under the sombre gaze of his wife Mary, daughters Sinead and Maedhbh and other family members seated in the Distinguished Visitors' gallery, Brian pulled the plug on his political life.

"I wish to inform the House as a matter of courtesy that I will proceed presently to Aras an Uachtarain to advise the President, pursuant to Article 13 of the Constitution, to dissolve Dail Eireann," he stated.

At last. Thanks be to god.

But, as often happens with much-anticipated and longed-for events, it's all a bit of an anti-climax when the day actually arrives. There was a distracted air in the chamber, an eagerness for the last rites.

And no wonder so many of the deputies who trickled into the chamber for Brian's curtain-call were distracted. A staggering 38 of them are turning their back on politics for good.

Bertie -- one of The Departed, stood at the top of the chamber near the door, shaking hands with passing deputies; another one, Dermot Ahern carefully made his final trip down the steps on crutches, while others just sat quietly in their seats and took it all in for a last time.

And of course given the uncertainty of this election, the only deputy who knows his seat is sure-fire safe is the Ceann Comhairle, who bowed out with one last faux-pas.

Seamus Kirk informed a startled House: "It is understood that at this stage An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern wants to make an announcement."

Bertie, hunched in the seat nearest the door, was saying nothing. But Brian got to his feet and delivered a dignified, gracious speech.

"I have made many great friends in this House, and this parliament and its traditions will always have my deepest respect," he said, earning himself one last round of applause.

Somewhat dispiritingly the other party leaders simply used the occasion to blow trumpets on election issues, while the Greens' Paul Gogarty expressed his displeasure by naughtily Tweeting from his seat.

"Enda Kenny giving the most partisan, unstatesmanlike speech ever. Wrong Time. Talks about change, but really, tiresomely, more of the same," he sniffed electronically.

Even inside the chamber, the election was already in full swing.

Among the lines in the poem by John O'Donoghue which Brian read aloud were: "May leadership be for you, A true adventure of growth."

But the tragedy of Brian Cowen was that leadership never meant adventure.

And perhaps that's why the only colleague who was misty-eyed as he took his leave was his most loyal vice-captain, Mary Coughlan.

Irish Independent