‘He wasn’t the first man to have an affair and he won’t be the last’

PJ Mara talks about Charlie, the Seanad and being a father aged 72

Charlie Haughey was not the first man to have an affair and would not be the last, his former adviser PJ Mara said today.

He said the revelation by Terry Keane of her affair with Mr Haughey on the Late Late Show was one of the most painful moments for the former taoiseach.

“It was a betrayal obviously and that’s hard to take for anyone. He was upset but it was not something he dwelled on.”

“He wasn’t the first man to have an affair and he won’t be the last; men do that; women do that. It’s not something I want to go into now; it happened.”


“We all know women who have affairs outside their marriage and it happens, it shouldn’t happen but it does,” he said.

Mr Mara (72) said he was not surprised the Government lost the Seanad abolition referendum and he described the Coalition’s campaign as “appalling, crude and vulgar”.

“The campaign that was fought by the Government was terrible; it wouldn’t inspire people to vote for it.

“I had a sense from early on that people were dubious about the proposition, middle class people in particular but it was heavily defeated in all the Dublin areas; blue collar and middle class.

“The proposition wasn’t well-handled. It was terrible; appalling. Whoever dreamt it up should be fired.”

Mr Mara said he is looking forward to seeing himself being played by Love/Hate actor Tom Vaughan-Lawlor in a three-part series about the disgraced former Taoiseach.

The drama which goes into production this week with the working title of “Charlie” covers the period from Haughey’s drive for power in 1979 and chronicles his attempts to hang onto that power until his departure from politics in 1992.

The 45-strong cast also includes Aidan Gillen who will play Haughey, Gavin O'Connor, Risteard Cooper, Peter O'Meara, Frankie McCafferty and Love/Hate's Laurence Kinlan in other keys roles.

Speaking on The John Murray Show with Miriam O'Callaghan, Mr O'Mara said it was "extraordinary" the interest and fascination about Mr Haughey's life had lasted a quarter of a century and he compared it to that of Margaret Thatcher in the UK which he believes still haunts the UK Conservative party to date.

He said he would be happy to meet Vaughan Lawlor who currently plays the role of underworld gangster Nidge in Love/Hate, but wouldn’t be giving him any advice on how to play him.

“I wouldn’t advise an actor, he has got a script, and they have their own way of going about their business.”

Mr Mara said he was not in a place to advise the show’s producers how he or Haughey would be portrayed. “It’s in the hands of the scriptwriters, actors and producers. I hope it does to him justice as he was multi faceted; he had his faults which everybody knows about but he had his strengths and I hope that those strengths are brought out in the show.”

Mr O’Mara said he has no idea how he will be depicted in the programme. “I want to be flattered and remembered well. I have no idea how they will depict me, I will have to wait and see how they do a job.”

"Of course I will watch it. I am vain enough and Tom Vaughan Lawlor has a big a reputation now, as big as Charlie Haughey's. I have every confidence in him and am sure RTÉ will be balanced in its treatment."

When asked about Scrap Saturday, he said he didn’t think it was accurate but had made for good entertainment and “kept the Irish middle-class happy in their beds.”

He admitted the end for Mr Haughey was “pretty miserable” but that he didn’t believe Mr Haughey reflected too much on his political short-comings, adding that he wasn’t a great person for retrospection.

He said history to date had not been kind to Mr Haughey, and hoped the forthcoming series will be balanced. “He was serious about his job and his work, committed and hard-working.

“He had a great handle on the human condition and a great understanding of people; their strengths, their weaknesses and their frailties.”

Mr Mara said he had advised the show’s producers to “look at the whole man” and “reflect on the good things that he did as well as the things he shouldn’t have done.”

He said it was a difficult time for the current Government “with the Troika breathing down their neck and the banks are in a terrible state”.

Mr Mara guided Fianna Fail’s election strategy up until the 2007 general election and then left politics for the world of business.

Mr Mara added he was enjoying being a father at 72 to his four-month-old daughter but said he did not change nappies.

“I’m not a ‘new dad’. I didn’t do it the first time round, I won’t do it now.”