Barry Cowen's occasionally gruff and truculent demeanour around Leinster House is sometimes mistaken for an arrogance that some would argue is typical of a man who hails from a political dynasty.
He has not always got on well with colleagues in his own party but, that said, he is broadly respected, well-liked and rated by many of them. Even privately, Fianna Fail TDs were more likely to sympathise than excoriate him as the controversy over his drink-driving ban overshadowed the party's second full week in government.
The Offaly TD, who has served in the Dail since 2011, has also been ultra-loyal to his leader Micheal Martin down through the years.
In the words of one veteran Fianna Fail TD, Cowen has been someone who, metaphorically, will "kick the shins off anyone who comes" near Martin. "He is there because he's a bit of a bruiser, and Micheal feels he needs to have one of them around him," the TD said.
But it's not just discipline. Cowen has also mastered the useful political skill of convincing people of his argument and bringing them with him. Over the last four years, as backbenchers got increasingly jumpy about the confidence and supply deal with Fine Gael, Cowen repeatedly stressed the need to keep calm, not do anything rash and focus on the ultimate goal of getting Fianna Fail back into government.
Having helped deliver that, it is some irony that his mind-numbingly stupid drink-driving indiscretion - as well as a number of other unforced errors from Fianna Fail - have served to overshadow Martin's early weeks in the Taoiseach's office.
But Martin has always reciprocated Cowen's loyalty, most notably of course by promoting him to Cabinet and then standing by him in the midst of the revelations about his drink-driving.
One of the reasons he did this is because the new Taoiseach, already embattled by a number of other issues, could ill-afford to lose a Cabinet minister a fortnight into the new Government taking office. It would have been a crisis on top of an already colossal post-Covid economic crisis facing us all.
It is also true Cowen was deeply apologetic and displayed a lot of humility over recent days. Although it should not be forgotten that he left many questions outstanding, chief among them why he was driving around for at least two decades without a full licence - and thought this was acceptable for a public representative.
But some in Fianna Fail also believe that Martin has what one backbencher termed "an irrational fear" of Cowen.
This plays into the unsubstantiated but no less compelling theory circulating among Fianna Fail TDs in recent weeks that Cowen only became agriculture minister because he refused the role of Government chief whip. This, the theory goes, is what led to the surprise appointment of Dara Calleary to the role of herding TDs for Dail votes, much to the Mayo man's chagrin. The suggestion Cowen turned down the chief whip's position is strongly denied.
But it is one of the many theories and rumours circulating in Fianna Fail, a party now beset by fear and loathing at all levels despite what should have been a triumphant return to government.
"You're writing about the Titanic here, so it doesn't really matter any more," said one particularly downbeat backbencher last week. "What has Fianna Fail been doing in government for the last three weeks except restating Fine Gael policy?"
The Fianna Fail TDs who believe Cowen has a hold over his party leader mostly attribute it to what happened nearly a decade ago when Martin effectively deposed Brian Cowen as leader.
For those struggling to remember what happened during those turbulent Troika days in early 2011, Martin was the first cabinet minister to declare no confidence in Cowen as party leader.
This triggered a series of bizarre and unprecedented events which ultimately undid Cowen and forced him to resign. Martin became leader within weeks.
"There's a bit of guilt over that," said a veteran TD. "From Micheal's point of view, because Brian Cowen is the former Taoiseach, there is always a bit of remorse there. He doesn't want to be on completely wrong terms with both of his predecessors, given he rolled over Bertie.
"He feels the Cowens have a bit of sway in the party and he doesn't want to be on the wrong side of it," the TD said.
Cowen is now desperate to put the controversy behind him. He made a point of going to the top of the room to address the Fianna Fail parliamentary party in the Convention Centre last week - something no other minister did.
He addressed colleagues on the topic of forestry and had what observers said was a spiky exchange with Marc MacSharry.
The minister told the Sligo-Leitrim Fianna Fail TD he had ordered an independent report on the recent mudslide in Leitrim.
An onlooker said MacSharry shook his head and said: "Ah, for f**k's sake Barry, have we gone native already?"
Cowen was said to have shrugged his shoulders and moved on to other questions.