Monday 20 November 2017

Mandy Johnston: In a dreary world of black and white, PJ didn't fit in - he always stood out

PJ Mara at Leinster House in 2008
PJ Mara at Leinster House in 2008
Mandy Johnston

Mandy Johnston

It was polling day, June 6, 1997. PJ sashayed into the room in his own inimitable style for the daily 7am team meeting at the Fianna Fáil election centre on Hume Street - referred to by the wags as 'The Mother Ship'.

Ten of us gathered there daily without fail at his instruction to plan the general election campaign. Voting day was no different. Even though there was no more publicity to be had because of the moratorium, we were still instructed to present ourselves suited and booted. We did as he said. Impeccably dressed in a crisp, cream suit and a white panama hat, he beamed as the newspapers strewn on the table whistled up "It's payback time".

Towering over us all, PJ smiled from ear to ear with that effervescent, mischievous twinkle in his eye that spoke a million words, conveying a hint of a secret that only he knew, but just couldn't tell. One of the assembled captured our bewilderment at the departure from his normal attire by saying: "Jaysus PJ, you look like the man from Del Monte."

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