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Saturday 24 March 2018

No razzmatazz, just peace as PJ Mara is laid to rest

HE had wanted his passing to be marked in a simple and dignified way, "far away from any razzmatazz and spin".

PJ Mara, the master of political wizardry, had one final triumph then, with mourners gathering in a silent country churchyard amid a typical soft West of Ireland rain - the 'softness' bucketing down - as he was laid to rest alongside his beloved wife, Breda.

Against the backdrop of the misty, rugged, rolling hills of the Burren, Mount Cross cemetery in Kinvara, Co Galway, is as far away from the razzmatazz, spin and hyperbole of the halls of Leinster House as Mr Mara could have ever possibly orchestrated it.

It was as though at the end he had tired of it all and knew what mattered was to have his close circle around him in the place that he loved best.

As they waited for the hearse carrying the remains to arrive from Dublin, his Kinvara friends gathered to reminisce and to mourn his passing.

Mr Mara's partner, Sheila, his son, John, daughter-in-law Clare and family members stood closely together in the rain for this most final of final farewells.

The Taoiseach was represented by his Aide-de-Camp, Commandant Kieran Carey, and Former Taoisigh Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen were in attendance.

The general secretary of Fianna Fáil, Seán Dorgan, businessman Denis O'Brien and economist Colm McCarthy were all present.

Also there were: the former Finance Minister and EU Commissioner Ray McSharry; former minister Ned O'Keeffe; former FF Senator Martin Mackin; former FF TD Brendan Daly; former Fianna Fail election agent Chris Wall and former MEP Mark Killilea were also there.

Seán O'Rourke and David Davin-Power of RTÉ and John McNamara, director of the Galway University Foundation - to which Mr Mara had given invaluable advice about fundraising and profile - were also amongst the mourners.

The coffin was draped in a Tricolour, which was then removed and folded in strict observance of protocol before it was presented to Mr Mara's son, John.

Fr Frank Larkin of St Joseph's in Galway and formerly of Kinvara parish then presided over a brief ceremony, saying the people of Kinvara had known PJ Mara well "and enjoyed his company so much".

He said Mr Mara would be laid to rest with his wife, Breda, and commented on the headstone, which Mr Mara had personally commissioned - a granite slab with a flight of doves depicted in bronze, rising up towards the skies.

It was made by the well-known Galway sculptor John Coll.

A decade of the Rosary was said over the coffin and a lone piper played 'Raglan Road' and 'Lord Lovett's Lament' as Mr Mara was laid to rest in the rocky soil of his wife's birthplace, which had been a second home to him throughout his life.

There was an emotional round of applause as Michael Brogan - Mr Mara's brother-in-law - sang 'The Tide Full In' by local poet and songwriter Francis Fahy, whose best known work is 'The Auld Plaid Shawl'.

Afterwards, mourners gathered for one last get-together at the local hotel in Kinvara, close to Mr Mara's house down at the quay, overlooking Dúnguaire Castle.

The funeral at Haddington Road Church in Dublin on Saturday had heard that Mr Mara was a man "who made friends everywhere".

Principal celebrant Fr Patrick Claffey, who is a long-time friend of Mr Mara, said: "There was a lot more to PJ Mara than the style and the flamboyance.

"He was a man of real substance, of moral substance, a man who assumed his life and lived it fully."

Fr Claffey said that when Mr Mara finished as government press secretary, his correspondence was handed to him on a floppy disc - one single letter, explaining that he had taken on board the advice of someone who had told him: "Never write a letter, never make a phone call, send word."

"Neither did he keep a diary or notes," said Fr Claffey. He scorned the very idea of a memoir on the basis that you don't really do kiss or tell. That was never going to happen.

"There can, no doubt, be a Machiavellian reading of that particular story and I'm sure there is a somewhat Machiavellian side to it, but I think it also indicates and reflects an important part of what made him very good at his job," Fr Claffey said.

Mr Mara is survived by his partner Sheila, children John and Elena, daughter-in-law Clare and grandson Jack. Breda, his wife, died in 2003.

Irish Independent

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