Wednesday 28 September 2016

Fianna Fail's old guard attend funeral of PJ Mara

Philip Ryan and John Downing

Published 16/01/2016 | 18:40

Former Taoisach Bertie Ahern at the funeral mass of the late Pj Mara at St Mary's church, Haddington road, Dublin.
Pic:Mark Condren
16.1.2016
Former Taoisach Bertie Ahern at the funeral mass of the late Pj Mara at St Mary's church, Haddington road, Dublin. Pic:Mark Condren 16.1.2016
Ray MacSharry shakes hands with Maureen Haughey wife of former Taoiseach Charles Haughey at the funeral mass of the late Pj Mara at St Mary's church, Haddington road, Dublin. Pic:Mark Condren 16.1.2016
Former Taoisach Bertie Aherne at the funeral mass of the late Pj Mara at St Mary's church, Haddington road, Dublin. Pic:Mark Condren 16.1.2016
Former Taoisach Bertie Ahern at the funeral mass of the late Pj Mara at St Mary's church, Haddington road, Dublin. Pic:Mark Condren 16.1.2016
Michael McDowell at the funeral mass of the late Pj Mara at St Mary's church, Haddington road, Dublin. Pic:Mark Condren 16.1.2016
Micheal Martin and his wife Mary at the funeral mass of the late Pj Mara at St Mary's church, Haddington road, Dublin. Pic:Mark Condren 16.1.2016
Charlie Bird at the funeral mass of the late Pj Mara at St Mary's church, Haddington road, Dublin. Pic:Mark Condren 16.1.2016
The remains of the late Pj Mara at St Mary's church, Haddington road, Dublin. Pic:Mark Condren 16.1.2016
Ray MacSharry at the funeral mass of the late Pj Mara at St Mary's church, Haddington road, Dublin. Pic:Mark Condren 16.1.2016
Ray Burke at the funeral mass of the late Pj Mara at St Mary's church, Haddington road, Dublin. Pic:Mark Condren 16.1.2016
Charlie McCreevy and his wife Noeleen at the funeral mass of the late Pj Mara at St Mary's church, Haddington road, Dublin. Pic:Mark Condren 16.1.2016
Ray MacSharry at the funeral mass of the late Pj Mara at St Mary's church, Haddington road, Dublin. Pic:Mark Condren 16.1.2016
Des O'Malley at the funeral mass of the late Pj Mara at St Mary's church, Haddington road, Dublin. Pic:Mark Condren 16.1.2016
Ray MacSharry at the funeral mass of the late Pj Mara at St Mary's church, Haddington road, Dublin. Pic:Mark Condren 16.1.2016
Dermot Ahern and Ned O'Keeffe at the funeral mass of the late Pj Mara at St Mary's church, Haddington road, Dublin. Pic:Mark Condren 16.1.2016
(on left) Fionnuala Kenny wife of Taoiseach Enda Kenny arriving with Maureen Haughey and her son Sean to the funeral mass of the late Pj Mara at St Mary's church, Haddington road, Dublin. Pic:Mark Condren 16.1.2016

Fianna Fail’s old guard as well as former political rivals and an eclectic gathering of mourners from all walks of Irish life attended the requiem mass of PJ Mara, the former Government Press Secretary, political strategist, lobbyist and advisor.

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Mr Mara died  at the Beacon Hospital early on Friday morning and had been ill for  some months.

Figures from the worlds of business, the arts, entertainment media and politics joined his partner Sheila, son John  and  daughter Elena at the obsequies at St Mary’s Church Haddington Road which was packed.

Mr Mara will be buried beside his late  wife Breda in Kinvara on Galway’s Atlantic coast tomorrow.

Before his funeral Mass former Taoiseach Brian Cowen said that  PJ  was still a “master of all he surveyed” even as his health deteriorated in hospital.

Mr Cowen visited Mr Mara on a number of occasions in the Beacon Hospital in Dublin, where the former Government press secretary was receiving treatment for cancer.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, the former Taoiseach said he was taken by his friend’s ability to engage with all around him despite his worsening health.

“He still had the mischievous smile and warm handshake although he was in intensive care for seven months,” Mr Cowen said.

“Even when you walked into the Beacon Hospital he still seemed to be master of all he surveyed and he was very popular with the nursing staff. It was clear he was still well regarded and his personality shined through all the time,” he added.

Mr Mara did not play a central role in Fianna Fail when Mr Cowen was in Government but the pair formed a strong friendship under the previous leaderships of Charles Haughey and Bertie Ahern.

Mr Cowen said the strategist’s “engaging personality” meant even opposition politicians held him high regard.

“I first came across him when I was still in college and Charlie came to power,” he said.

“He could chew the cud with whomever he met. Political opponents had more than a sneaking regard for him because they realised he did a job in tough times very well and subsequently his friendships spanned the political spectrum,” he added.

Mr Cowen paid tribute to Mr Mara’s “political brain” and described him as Fianna Fail “true believer”.

“He had a great sense of humour and was fun but was a very serious operator at the same time as press secretary and then as a senior strategist for many years. He was very good reader of the game and very effective when it came to elections,” he said.

St Mary’s Church was packed  for the Requiem Mass which was concelebrated by Fr  Patrick Claffey, PP of St Mary’s, Fr Tom Stack, Fr Enda McDonagh and  Fr Dermod  McCarthy.

The Cantor was  Eimear Barry and  the readers were his brother-in-law  Declan Brogan and  Dr Maurice Manning, Chancellor, National University of Ireland .

Prayers were read by  former presidential advisor Eileen Gleeson, the General Secretary of Fianna Fail Sean Dorgan and the businessman Denis O’Brien, with whom Mr Mara worked closely in recent years.

The Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin interupted his attendance  at his party’s Ard Fheis and was joined by former Taoiseach  Bertie Ahern and a large number of  senior political figures  including former EU Commissioners Ray MacSharry and David Byrne , Batt O ’Keefe, Ray Burke, Michael Smith,  Martin Mansergh and Charlie  McCreevy.

Mr Mara was most widely known as the key political advisor to the former Taoiseach  Charles Haughey and Mr Haughey’s widow Maureen, sons Sean and Conor and daughter Eimear were in attendance.

Former TD  Charlie O’Connor as well as Public  Accounts Committee Chairman Deputy  John McGuinness, impressario Oliver Barry,  Eamon Dunphy, businessman   Ulick McEvaddy, rival political strategist  Frank Flannery,  columnist Colm McCarthy  and former Minister for Justice Michael McDowell also attended as well as the former leader of  the Progressive Democrats and , Des O’Malley.

The President Michael D Higgins was  represented by his Aide-de-camp,  Col.  Michael Kiernan.

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