“A stroke too far,” headlines the Irish Independent. In a dramatic 24 hours which saw 6 of his cabinet ministers resign, Taoiseach Brian Cowen has reluctantly announced a general election for 11 March. As closest allies deserted him, Cowen’s attempt to fill the vacant ministries “backfired spectacularly” as junior coalition partners the Greens threatened to collapse the government if a poll date was not set, the Dublin daily reports. Widely blamed for Ireland’s economic meltdown and humiliating EU/IMF bailout, Cowen and his Fianna Fail party, which has run the Irish state for much of its 89 year history, face electoral wipe-out. Summing up the national mood, an Irish Examiner columnist laments “one of the most stunningly shambolic days in Irish political history which saw Mr Cowen trash the dignity of the office of Taoiseach and leave his fag-butt Cabinet half-empty as the economic crisis worsens further.”