Former Irish leader Brian Cowen, 59, is said to be very ill and in intensive care in a Dublin hospital.

Brian Cowen is thought to have suffered a stroke of some kind and had been unwell for a few days before being taken to hospital.

Cowen was Taoiseach from 2008 to  2011. His administration coincided with the Irish financial and banking crises.

He has received substantial criticism for his failure to stem the tide of either crisis, ultimately culminating in his government's formal request for financial rescue from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, widely seen in Ireland as a national humiliation

Cowen's leadership saw public support for Fianna Fáil plunge to record lows, as well as the lowest public support on record for both a sitting Irish government and a sitting Taoiseach. With approval at eight percent, by the time the 30th Dáil was dissolved, he was the least popular incumbent politician in the history of Irish opinion polling.

Fianna Fail was almost wiped out in the subsequent election and Cowen resigned.

While a very effective Finance Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister, Cowen seemed overwhelmed by the responsibilities of Taosieach (Prime Minister).

Rumors of heavy drinking also circulated fueled by a disastrous radio interview where he appeared to be slurring his words.

Ireland's former leader Brian Cowen.RollingNews