TAOISEACH Brian Cowen opted to celebrate his 50th birthday at home with his family in Offaly yesterday.
According to a local source, his team felt that a major celebration would not be appropriate given the serious events taking place -- including the freezing weather conditions across the country and Finance Minister Brian Lenihan's battle with cancer.
However, Mr Cowen did turn up to hold his regular constituency clinic in his office in Tullamore in snowy conditions on Saturday.
Former Fianna Fail councillor John Flanagan said his decision not to have a major celebration was "typical" of his modest character.
"I know him a long, long time -- I was elected to the county council the same day he was," he said.
"He would be a very honourable person, his word would be his bond and there's a lot of business people who would admire his attitude and his professionalism."
Mr Flanagan, who is the owner of the Tullamore Court Hotel, said last year was the toughest any Taoiseach had experienced since the foundation of the State.
"There was an enormous amount of activity with banks and financial institutions of all types. Over the years it had got out of control and it all had to be brought back to normality," he said.
Last year, Mr Cowen celebrated his birthday in the Bunker Bar in Gorey, Co Wexford, where he was attending the 21st birthday party of one of his nieces.
His predecessor, Bertie Ahern, did have a night out to mark his own 58th birthday last September in Fagan's pub in Drumcondra in Dublin.
Mr Cowen's brother Barry said it had been a tough year politically for his brother.
"It has been a tough hard year but having said that, we're hopeful that things might improve this year and we'll all play our part in doing that," he said.
Barry Cowen also confirmed that his brother was still doing regular constituency clinics.
"Nobody could ever say he was inactive in his constituency," he said.
Mr Cowen is one of the younger members in the current Cabinet, with Education Minister Batt O'Keeffe (63) and Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Minister Eamon O Cuiv (59) considerably older than him.
Wexford-based Fianna Fail Senator Lisa McDonald expressed hope that Mr Cowen's birthday would be a turning point for him.
"They say the ebb is the lowest point of the tide and we've turned that corner now, so hopefully the tide will turn with him hitting 50 and he'll have a bit more luck," she said.
Ms McDonald said that Mr Cowen had to face plenty of hard decisions since taking office in May 2008 and "had made them well".
"He hasn't gained in the polls for having done that but I think in the long term it will show for him, and I wish him all the luck for the next year," she added.