It all happened as it was planned, and no one stepped out of line to spoil the parade of the new leader of Fianna Fáil and the country. As expected, the current Tanaiste Brian Cowen was today elected as the successor of Bertie Ahern.
Cowen said he is "excited by the challenge, but daunted by the responsibility" of becoming Taoiseach and leader of Fianna Fáil. At his first press conference since being elected leader-designate of the party, Cowen said his election was the highlight of his political career to date.
Brian Cowen was elected unopposed as the seventh leader of Fianna Fáil at a special meeting of the parliamentary party this morning. This afternoon he said he would devote all his abilities and all his energies to the task before him.
Asked whether he supported the Health Service Executive (HSE) and Minister for Heath Mary Harney, he said he did and claimed opponents of government health policy were attempting to retain the status quo, which he said was not an option. Cowen urged everyone in the country to work together to make the changes "which would deliver to the public the health service they expect and deserve".
The next Fianna Fáil leader reaffirmed his commitment to mutual respect and equality on the island, and stressed the importance of the Lisbon Treaty for the country. He also said that he is deeply committed to continuing the government's involvement in the North.
Brian Cowen said he would bring his own style to the job of Taoiseach. Bertie Ahern, he added, lived the position "day and night" and had a huge work ethic which Cowen said he hopes to match. And he said he would be fully aware of his accountability to the public.
Asked about the potential for Sinn Féin in government, he said this could only be considered in a given set of circumstances.
It took less than twenty minutes to formally elect Brian Cowen this morning as his was the only name in contention at the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting. The leader-designate thanked his colleagues for the honour they had conferred on him before taking part in a photo call outside Leinster House.
Brian Cowen then took his usual place beside the Taoiseach in the Dáil chamber for Leaders' Questions. He will be taking over that particular hot seat in four weeks' time. Until then he will have plenty of time to ponder over the details of his first cabinet. Given his conservative and stable character, it is unlikely that he will make many changes. Besides a replacement for himself as both Tanaiste and Minister for Finance, he might make some minor changes. But since it is less than a year since the cabinet was formed and the junior partners in the coalition will not be touched, observers expect few changes.
The Emerald Islander