TIMELINE-Irish PM Cowen quits as ruling party's leader

Jan 22 (Reuters) - Ireland's Prime Minister Brian Cowen has resigned as leader of the ruling Fianna Fail party but said he will remain as premier until an election on March 11. Below is a timeline of Ireland's economic troubles since Cowen took office as prime minister: May 7, 2008 - Brian Cowen is elected prime minister. Allies and opponents warn the former finance minister he faces a tough task steering the country through an economic slowdown. Justice Minister Brian Lenihan becomes finance minister. Sept. 25 - Ireland is first euro zone country to go into recession after its property bubble bursts. Sept. 30 - Ireland responds to collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers, approving a guarantee covering 400 billion euros ($530 billion) of liabilities at six Irish-owned banks. The package is later increased to 485 billion euros to cover foreign-owned banks with significant operations in Ireland. Dec. 21 - Ireland agrees to inject 5.5 billion euros into its three main banks, taking Anglo Irish Bank under government control. March 30, 2009 - Standard and Poor's downgrades Ireland's credit rating from AAA to AA+ and says it may fall further. Fitch strips Ireland of its AAA credit rating on April 8, reducing it to AA-plus. April 8 - Lenihan outlines 10.6 billion euros in spending cuts for 2010-2011 and forecasts an additional 3.25 billion euros from taxation in that period in an emergency budget. Dec. 9 - Ireland's 2010 budget includes savings of more than 4 billion euros, cutting public pay and welfare. July 19, 2010 - Moody's reduces Ireland's credit rating by one notch to Aa2, saying it faces a slow climb out of recession. Aug. 25 - Standard and Poor's cuts Ireland's long-term rating by one notch to AA- and gives it a negative outlook. Sept. 30 - Ireland discloses a worst-case price tag of more than 50 billion euros ($68 billion) for bailing out its banks. Oct. 6 - Fitch cuts Ireland's credit rating to A+ from AA-. Nov. 16 - Euro zone finance ministers agree to lay the groundwork for bailing out Ireland's banking sector with the International Monetary Fund, but say Dublin has to decide whether to request the aid. It agrees to let EU, IMF and European Central Bank technical experts visit Ireland to assess its banking problems. Nov. 21 - EU finance ministers welcome an Irish request for financial aid on grounds it will safeguard euro zone stability. Nov. 22 - EU, IMF officials begin working out details of rescue package.

Cowen's coalition partner, the Green Party, says it will support the government until the budget is passed and the bailout is in place, but will then leave the coalition. Nov. 24 - Ireland reveals a 15 billion euro four-year austerity plan imposing spending cuts and tax increases to help meet the costs of the bank crisis and meet the terms of the EU/IMF rescue. The plan includes thousands of public sector job cuts, phased-in increases in the value added tax (VAT) rate from 2013 and social welfare savings of 2.8 billion euros by 2014. Nov. 28 - The EU approves an 85-billion-euro rescue for Ireland and outlines a permanent system to resolve debt crises. Dec. 7 - Ireland details the toughest budget on record, which includes 6 billion euros in tax rises and spending cuts. Dec. 9 - Fitch becomes the first agency to strip Ireland of its 'A' credit status, slashing it by three notches to BBB+. Dec. 15 - Parliament approves the EU/IMF bailout package, but the opposition threatens to renegotiate the deal to force losses on some senior bond holders in Irish banks. Dec. 17 - Moody's cuts Ireland's credit rating to Baa1, with a negative outlook. Jan. 16, 2011 - Cowen says he will remain leader of Fianna Fail and prime minister but will call election after the finance bill is passed. Jan. 18 - Cowen wins vote of confidence in his leadership of the ruling party. Jan. 20 - Cowen sets March 11 for parliamentary election after a third of his cabinet resigns in just over 24 hours. Jan. 22 - Cowen resigns as leader of Fianna Fail but says he will stay as premier until the parliamentary election. ((For an interactive timeline on the euro zone debt crisis in 2010, click on http://link.reuters.com/can23r )) ((For a graphic on the euro zone debt struggle (package of graphics incl.

debt exposure map) please click on http://r.reuters.com/hyb65p )) (Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit;) Keywords: IRELAND POLITICS/EVENTS (david.cutler@thomsonreuters.com; +44 20 7542 7968; Reuters Messaging: david.cutler.reuters.com@reuters.net) COPYRIGHT Copyright Thomson Reuters 2011. All rights reserved.

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