Fianna Fail's old guard attend funeral of PJ Mara
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.
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.