Former Fianna Fáil political strategist PJ Mara has died, aged 73

Former advisor to Charlie Haughey passed away in hospital after a long illness

Former Fianna Fáil political strategist and Government Press Secretary PJ Mara has died in Dublin at the age of 73.

The former political advisor to Charlie Haughey passed away at The Beacon Hospital in the early hours of this morning, following a long illness.

An influential political figure in several governments, he served as Government Press Secretary from 1987 to 1992 and returned to serve as Fianna Fáil's Director of Elections in 1997, continuing in this role for three general election campaigns.

He is survived by his partner and two children.

Tributes

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said he learned of Mr Mara's death "with great sadness". Martin spoke of how he first met Mara as a student: 

"In a series of general elections as well as the referendum on the Good Friday Agreement, PJ proved himself to be the most effective campaign director in Irish political history. He brought immense humour, judgement and commitment to the role," said Martin.

"As Government Press Secretary for five years he brought a new energy and professionalism to the role which was recognised throughout Europe during the 1990 Presidency of the European Council.

"PJ was a true original who it was an honour and a pleasure to know and to work with", he added.

He also extended condolences to Mr Mara's family on behalf of the party.

Former Fine Gael TD and Senator Maurice Manning, now Chancellor of the National University of Ireland, spoke to Newstalk Breakfast about his friend.

And Fianna Fáil TD Willie O'Dea said Mr Mara bridged the gap in the party, created by Charlie Haughey.

European Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly knew him well during her years as a political correspondent.

She said PJ only became well known by the public when comedian Dermot Morgan portrayed him and Charlie Haughey in his sketch show Scrap Saturday: Newstalk Political Editor Shane Coleman paid tribute to the 'erudite' Mara, saying that he was completely different to the current breed of press officers: