Saturday 10 December 2016

Sean O’Rourke: PJ Mara tribute

Sean O'Rourke

Published 16/01/2016 | 14:49

PJ Mara at the launch of Fianna Fail manifesto on Health during the 2002 General Election Campaign.Photo: Leon Farrell/RollingNews.ie
PJ Mara at the launch of Fianna Fail manifesto on Health during the 2002 General Election Campaign.Photo: Leon Farrell/RollingNews.ie

It was quite the introduction to political journalism. Charles Haughey was visiting his native Mayo in September 1980 for the unveiling of what Padraig Flynn described as Tablets on the wall of his birthplace in Castlebar. Most of the cabinet and Junior ministers were in attendance in a display of loyalty at a time of deep divisions in Fianna Fail.

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It was in the Halal meat plant in Ballyhaunis during that visit that I first met PJ Mara, who had played a big part in Haughey’s accession to the leadership nine months earlier.  Before nightfall, he was musing on the possibility of breaking the legs of a reporter who was minded to write something mildly disrespectful of his leader.

Jocose stuff, admittedly, but typical enough of his ability to utter the most scabrous observations about individuals.  He once told me, with a straight face,  that a very senior minister with whom he was angry at the time could neither read nor write.  In ways, PJ Mara was in a perpetual state of Showtime.

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