In a statement to the Dáil this afternoon, he also reassigned the portfolios left vacant by the resignation of six ministers in recent days.
And top of the list is Donegal’s own Tanaiste Mary Coughlan who takes on the added responsibility for Health and Children along with her current role as Minister for Education.
The Minister will hold the dual roles for the next two months or so before voters finally go to the polls.
Minster for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation Batt O’Keeffe tendered his resignation from Cabinet today, while Mary Harney, Dermot Ahern, Noel Dempsey and Tony Killeen gave their letters of resignation to the Taoiseach late last night.
Micheál Martin stepped down on Tuesday night following his failed challenge to Mr Cowen’s leadership of Fianna Fáil.
In the Dáil this afternoon, Mr Cowen did not appoint new faces to the Cabinet, meaning a number of existing Ministers will double up.
The transport portfolio has been assigned to the Minister for Community and Family Affairs Pat Carey, while Mr Cowen assigned the defence porfolio to Minister for Social Protection Eamon Ó Cuív. Minister for Tourism Mary Hanafin takes over the enterprise, trade and innovation brief.
Mr Cowen paid tribute to the six ministers who resigned.
No Green TDs were in the House for the announcement and the reassignment of portfolios confirms that the Green Party would not accept new appointments.
The Taoiseach said he intends to dissolve the current Dáil once the Finance Bill has completed its passage through the Oireachtas. Mr Cowen said the second stage of the Bill would be taken next week and subsequent stages in following weeks.
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said the Taoiseach had given “finality and conclusion and clarity” to the issue. He hoped that this would restore “some sense of authority and respect and dignity to this House”.
Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore offered his best wishes on a personal level to the resigning ministers. He welcomed the fact that “at long last” a date has been set for the general election.
The announcement the Taoiseach made “could and should have been made this morning and could have avoided the chaos”. He said the ministers who resigned could have stayed in office until the election.
“The Taoiseach attempted a stroke and it backfired,” Mr Gilmore said. “He ended up as a Taoiseach without authority. He no longer has the authority to do the most essential thing for a Taoiseach which is to appoint the members of Government.”
Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caolain told the Taoiseach that when he got out of bed this morning it was “not what you intended to read into the House”. The further responsibility was surely the very last thing the existing Ministers needed, he said.
Mr Cowen denied he was engaging in any “stunts”.Ministers believed it was important they resign because they would not be accountable at the election, he said. Other than Mr Martin, all of the Ministers who resigned have announced that they do not intend to contest the forthcoming election.
The Taoiseach said he reassigned the portfolios to existing members of Cabinet because he had not wanted any further additional cost to the State to be involved in new appointments.
“I believe it would be far better that … new nominees would be people in a position to go out and advocate and defend our position in Government for the past three-and-a-half years,” he said. “That will enable the people on 11th March to consider what parties, all of whom will be competing for power not walking away from power, they wish to elect.
“I challenge the politically correct view that it was for the purpose of a stunt. Far from it,” he said. “What this election is about is the future of this country.”