PJ Mara ‘made friends everywhere’, funeral Mass hears
Denis O’Brien among the pallbearers at service for former Fianna Fáil strategist
Businessman Denis O’Brien was among the coffin-bearers, as the remains of PJ Mara, the former government press secretary, were removed to St Mary’s Church, Haddington Road in Dublin. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times.
The late PJ Mara with former Fianna Fáil leader and taoiseach Bertie Ahern. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times.
Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Charles Haughey’s widow Maureen and her son Séan, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and many former government ministers and TDs were among those who attended his funeral mass in Haddington Road Church in Dublin.
Among the mourners too was his friend, the businessman Denis O’Brien, who was one of the pallbearers and read one of the prayers of the faithful.
“There was a lot more to PJ Mara than the style and the flamboyance,” he explained. “He was a man of real substance, of moral substance, a man who assumed his life and lived it fully.”
Mr Mara had been ill at the Beacon clinic for many months. He had requested no eulogy and no memorabilia of his life to be brought to the altar, Fr Claffey said.
However, the priest joked that the tokens that might have been brought to the altar would have been a Charvet shirt and the Fianna Fáil manifestos for the 1997, 2002 and 2007 general elections.
Mr Mara was particularly proud of his involvement in the “three-in-a-row” of Fianna Fáil election victories, Fr Claffey said. However, he did not want anything that “smacked of the circus side”. His funeral Mass was to be a “serious business” to be marked in a simple and dignified way.
“He certainly knew he was entering a place where spin doesn’t matter so much,” Fr Claffey told the congregation.
Fr Claffey quoted Mr Mara’s old friend Maurice Manning. He had described Mr Mara as a “great friend, warm, funny, irreverent, hugely intelligent and widely read. He always got to the heart of the matter and never missed the bigger picture. He brightened up any company he was in. He had a genuine interest in people and the absurdity of human life especially political life.”
Mr Manning also read a prayer of the faithful.
Mr Mara, who died on Friday aged 73, was a key adviser and confidant to Mr Haughey throughout his political career.
Fr Claffey said that when Mr Mara finished as government press secretary, his correspondence was handed to him on a floppy disc. It consisted of a single letter.
Mr Mara had taken on board the advice of someone who told him: “Never write a letter, never make a phone call, send word.”
Fr Claffey continued: “Neither did he keep a diary or notes. 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.
“He had a very strong sense of himself, he had a very strong sense of what he would or would not do within particular limits. It reflected a natural modesty and the ability to see things from a different and indeed broader perspective. That is of course very admirable.”
He was predeceased by his sister Marion who died last week.
Mr Mara is survived by his partner Sheila, children John and Elena, daughter-in-law Clare and grandson Jack.
His wife Breda died in 2003. Fr Claffey said the funeral Mass booklet was the same as that used during his wife’s funeral.
The Mass was concelebrated by Fr Tom Stack, Fr Enda McDonagh and Fr Dermod McCarthy.