A loyal servant and razor-sharp strategist

PJ MARA, who died yesterday aged 73, was probably the most astute political strategist and communicator in recent Irish history.

A charismatic, sophisticated figure, the high water mark of his career may have been his successes as Bertie Ahern’s director of elections for the three-in-a-row victories between 1997 and 2007.

That achievement stands apart from the dreadful legacy of those administrations — one that led to the 2011 decimation of his beloved Fianna Fáil.

However, Mara will be remembered as the leader of Charlie Haughey’s praetorian guard, and was a central figure in restoring Haughey in the affections of the Fianna Fáil grassroots after the Arms Trial of 1970.

Had Mara not so patiently supported Haughey, the code that Haughey lived by and encouraged might never had such a disastrous impact on this Republic.

Mara was an essential cog in the Haughey-and- mohair days of Fianna Fáil and all that meant. He was also an urbane and witty companion though there was real steel behind the smile, the beautifully cut suit, and the disarming charm. He was indeed the groomed wolf in pinstripes.

Mara was also exceptionally alert to shifting political winds.

He was a guest on an RTÉ radio programme some years ago. He had just returned from the US where he visited the Democratic convention.

“I have seen the next president of the United States,” he announced. He was referring to the then utterly underrated Barack Obama.


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