Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

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Luke 'Ming' Flanagan
MEP
Luke 'Ming' Flanagan
Member of the European Parliament
Incumbent
Assumed office
1 July 2014[1]
Constituency Midlands–North-West
Teachta Dála
In office
February 2011 – May 2014
Constituency Roscommon–South Leitrim
Roscommon County Council
In office
2004–2011
Constituency Castlerea
Personal details
Born (1972-01-22) 22 January 1972 (age 42)[2]
Roscommon, Ireland [3]
Nationality Irish
Political party Independent / GUE/NGL

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan (born 22 January 1972) is an Irish independent politician and Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the Midlands–North-West constituency.[4]

Flanagan served as a member of Roscommon County Council from 2004 until 2011, being re-elected in 2009, and was mayor from 2010 until he was elected as a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Roscommon–South Leitrim constituency at the 2011 general election. He was then elected as an independent candidate for the Midlands–North-West constituency at the 2014 European Parliament election. Flanagan is a social campaigner best known for his long-running involvement in the campaign for the legalisation of cannabis and addressing allegations of corruption in the Garda Síochána, the national police force.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Flanagan is the subject of two documentary films, Dole Éireann, which followed his 1997 Dáil election bid and The Life and Crimes of Citizen Ming which was shot over a longer period, and documents various election bids and tangles with the law.[6] He has continued to campaign for the legalisation of cannabis, and has been convicted on several occasions of possession of the drug for personal use. Flanagan served nine days of a 15-day sentence in 1998 in Loughan House open prison, in County Cavan, for refusing to pay a fine imposed for breach of the Litter Pollution Act.[5] He is a distant relative of the Irish Republican and leader of Sinn Féin Michael O'Flanagan.[7][8]

Local politics[edit]

Flanagan began his political career running unsuccessfully as an independent candidate in the Galway West constituency at the 1997 general election. He entered politics urging the legalisation of cannabis and as a protest candidate against his landlord, Fianna Fáil TD Frank Fahey.[5] He got 548 votes (1.1%).[9] He went on to contest the Connacht–Ulster constituency at the 1999 European Parliament election receiving 5,000 votes (1.6%) and the Longford–Roscommon constituency at the 2002 general election receiving 779 votes (1.6%).[10]

He was not portrayed by the media as a serious candidate, shaving his hair and styling his beard in the way of Ming the Merciless from the comic strip Flash Gordon.[11] His posters and other election material featured cannabis leaves, and legalisation of the drug was one of his main policy platforms. He voiced uncompromising support for radical social and environmental issues, and displayed a knack for using the media, being featured in many newspapers and radio programmes who were attracted by his colourful appearance and strong rhetoric.

In 2001, he hit the headlines when he sent more than 200 cannabis cigarettes to politicians in the Oireachtas, one to each TD and senator, as part of his campaign to have cannabis legalised.[12][13]

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan TD, pictured centre at a protest in Clonmoylan Bog near Woodford.

Flanagan supports the cutting of turf from raised bogs despite a European Union ban.[14] He has cut turf at Cloonchambers Bog near Castlerea, a degraded, but still active, raised bog which has been designated a Special Area of Conservation.[15]

Roscommon County Council[edit]

Flanagan returned to his native Castlerea in County Roscommon where he contested the 2004 local elections, and was elected to Roscommon County Council,[16] topping the poll and getting elected on the first count, defeating sitting councillors John Murray and Danny Burke.[17] He was re-elected on the first count at 2009 local elections, receiving 16.8% of 1st preference votes in the Castlerea electoral area, and exceeding the quota by 394 votes.[18]

Mayor of County Roscommon[edit]

On 28 June 2010, Flanagan was elected as the Mayor of Roscommon County Council.[19] On 27 July 2010, Flanagan was the subject of debate[20] over refusing to lead the prayer said before council meetings, because as a non-believer he said it would be hypocritical. The matter was later resolved by asking the Deputy Mayor Ernie Keenan to say the prayer.

In December 2010, Flanagan proposed that his Mayoral allowance should be halved, and many of his other allowances be abolished entirely, in recognition of the financial difficulties that the country and the county were experiencing. The proposal met with a mixed reception from his council colleagues.[21]

National politics[edit]

2011 general election[edit]

Flanagan was elected to represent the Roscommon–South Leitrim constituency in the 31st Dáil in the 2011 general election, one of twenty members of the New Vision alliance of independent candidates.[11][22] He received 8,925 (18.8%) first preference votes, and was elected to the first seat with 12,149 votes on the fourth count, while the two incumbent Fine Gael TDs were elected on the sixth count. Neither of the two Fianna Fáil candidates managed to retain the seat of their retiring party colleague, Michael Finneran.

Upon election Flanagan took a 50% salary cut and urged his fellow TDs to follow suit.[23][24] Following his election to the Dáil, Flanagan nominated independent John Murphy to replace him on Roscommon County Council.[25]

When he was elected in 2011, Flanagan kept his promise to retain only half of his €92,672 salary and distribute the rest to local projects.[26] He refused to hand it back to the State claiming it would only be pumped into the banks.[27]

Dáil Éireann[edit]

In March 2011, one month after being elected to Dáil Éireann, Flanagan announced that he would cease his smoking of cannabis while in Ireland in order to protect his family and focus on the issues for which he stands. He said he still intended to smoke cannabis when abroad.[28] This followed a formal complaint lodged to the Garda Síochána by a Fianna Fáil councillor from Kilkenny about the Roscommon–South Leitrim's cannabis use. Flanagan said that: "...my wife and children are the most important people on the planet to me and I don't want my kids to witness the Garda calling to the house." He said he would continue to campaign for the legalisation of cannabis.[24]

In July 2011, Flanagan was linked to an incident in which a Dáil microphone picked up a conversation he had with fellow independent TDs Shane Ross and Mick Wallace. During the exchange the trio appeared to be disparaging the appearance of Fine Gael TD Mary Mitchell O'Connor.[29] Wallace initiated the conversation by saying "Miss Piggy has toned it down a bit today". Flanagan was heard saying "they’d want to ban her wearing pink" and Ross commented that "she normally wears the most garish colours".[30]

On 2 November 2011, Flanagan walked out of the Dáil amid a heated disagreement with Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney over turf-cutting rights. Flanagan had observed that his Fine Gael constituency colleague Frank Feighan had promised before the 2011 general election that he would "sign his name in blood" if that was required to oppose a turf-cutting ban, with Coveney responding by saying populism was a dangerous thing. Flanagan then said, "Populism and bondholders. I am leaving the chamber", with Coveney telling him to "go on and walk out in protest". Flanagan retorted, "My daddy did not give me a seat."[31] This referred to the fact that Simon Coveney was elected in a by-election after his father, Hugh Coveney TD died in an accident in March 1998.

On 15 December 2011, Flanagan helped launch a nationwide campaign against a proposed household charge being brought in as part of the 2012 Irish budget.[32]

In April 2012, Flanagan stated he would be urging people to vote 'No' in the referendum on ratification of the European Fiscal Compact Treaty on the grounds that Ireland would lose power to bigger countries in Europe. He also stated that Ireland should leave the economic and monetary union (EMU), based on the euro currency.[33]

Flanagan admitted to "atrocious" timing after calling gardaí "corrupt" on television, as thousands of people gathered for the state funeral of murdered garda Adrian Donohoe in Dundalk, County Louth, in January 2013.[34] In early March 2013, the Sunday Independent's Daniel McConnell reported that Flanagan had been issued with a fine of €60 and two penalty points on his driving licence for operating a mobile phone while driving in June 2011. According to these reports, Flanagan then had his punishment rescinded at a later date with a claim of being on 'Dáil business'. The stories caused controversy at the time as Flanagan, with other independent TDs, had been involved in a campaign highlighting the cancellation of 197 Fixed Charge Notices out of the 1.4 million issued, which it was alleged were 'inappropriately' quashed.[35] In the Dáil, Flanagan admitted he twice had penalty points cancelled,[36][37] though he also asked that they be reinstated.[38]

In June 2013, Flanagan came to prominence as an advocate of turf cutters whose ability to cut turf was affected by the European Union's Habitats Directive. As part of his advocacy, Flanagan attended a number of turf cutters' protests in support, as well as being present at turf harvesting in designated conservation areas in spite of the ban.[39]

European Parliament[edit]

On 21 March 2014, Flanagan announced that he would run as an independent candidate for the Midlands–North-West constituency at the 2014 European Parliament election.[40] He ran on an "anti-European Union platform".[40] During the campaign he famously said, "I'm sick and tired of dealing with the monkey, I want to go and deal with the organ grinder."[41] He was elected at the second count on 26 May 2014 after being deemed to have passed the quota.[42]
In December 2014, Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan along with Brian Crowley had the worst voting record, in the new assembly, among Irish MEPs at the European Parliament, as determined by VoteWatch Europe and reported in Ireland Voting Record

References[edit]

  1. ^ "[T]hey will only become official members of Parliament upon receiving their voting cards on 1 July" "Europe's newly-elected MEPs make their way to Brussels". European Parliament. Retrieved 24 June 2014. 
  2. ^ "Luke Ming Flanagan". TheJournal.ie. Retrieved 23 February 2011. 
  3. ^ "Luke Ming Flanagan". votewatch.eu. Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  4. ^ "Mr. Luke 'Ming' Flanagan". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c "From Ming the Merciless to Ming the Mayor". The Irish Times. 26 June 2010. 
  6. ^ "The Life and Crimes of Citizen Ming". Google videos. 
  7. ^ "‘Ming’ attends Glasnevin Commemoration". Roscommon People. 
  8. ^ "Thousands of turf-cutters protest at Athlone rally". Westmeath Independent. 3 February 2011. 
  9. ^ "Luke 'Ming' Flanagan". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 30 September 2010. 
  10. ^ Harry McGee (14 June 2004). "Ming’s dynasty starts with poll-topping win". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 9 May 2009. 
  11. ^ a b McDonald, Brian (30 December 2010). "Radical Mayor 'Ming' on a roll and targeting Dáil". Irish Independent. 
  12. ^ "Campaigner sends drug to Senators". The Daily Telegraph (London). 5 November 2001. Retrieved 6 May 2009. 
  13. ^ "TDs sent cannabis in the post". RTÉ News. 5 November 2001. Retrieved 6 May 2009. 
  14. ^ "Turf cutters get 15,000 euro payout". The Belfast Telegraph. 13 April 2011. 
  15. ^ "Ming, lies and our obliterated raised bogs". Village magazine. 
  16. ^ "FF to lose control of four councils". RTÉ News. 13 June 2004. Retrieved 6 May 2009. 
  17. ^ "Local elections 2004: Castlerea". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 30 December 2010. 
  18. ^ "Local elections 2009: Castlerea". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 30 December 2010. 
  19. ^ McDonald, Brian (29 June 2010). "'Ming' pulls off merciless coup to become county's first citizen". Irish Independent. Retrieved 4 July 2010. 
  20. ^ "Roscommon Mayor insists tradition can be broken". Shannonside.ie. 27 July 2010. 
  21. ^ "‘Ming’ wants councilors to take cut in conference expenses". Roscommon Herald. 3 January 2011. 
  22. ^ Cullen, Paul; O'Halloran, Marie (10 February 2011). "New Vision tells of public anger". The Irish Times. 
  23. ^ Murphy, Cormac. "History in the making as poster boy Boyd Barrett and hard left triumphs". 28 February 2011.
  24. ^ a b Siggins, Lorna (24 March 2011). "'Ming' Flanagan quits cannabis to put issues centre stage". The Irish Times. 
  25. ^ "Council welcomes new Castlerea councillor". Roscommon Hearld. 22 March 2011. 
  26. ^ "‘Ming’ Flanagan on €9k signpost donation: I’m keeping my election promise". TheJournal.ie. 29 May 2012. 
  27. ^ "TD 'Ming' to give half his salary for local projects". Irish Independent. 30 November 2012. 
  28. ^ Kelly, Fiach (24 March 2011). "Ming: why I'm giving up dope". Irish Independent. 
  29. ^ "Ming: ‘What did I say that caused offence?’". The Journal.ie. 13 July 2011. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  30. ^ "Mick Wallace labels Mary Mitchell O’Connor ‘Miss Piggy’". The Journal.ie. 12 July 2011. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  31. ^ O'Regan, Michael (3 November 2011). "Flanagan walks out after turf-cutting exchanges". The Irish Times. 
  32. ^ "TDs would go to jail over household charge". RTÉ News. 15 December 2011. Retrieved 15 December 2011. 
  33. ^ "Thirtieth Amendment of the Constitution (Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union) Bill 2012: Second Stage (Resumed)". debates.oireachtas.ie. 19 April 2012. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  34. ^ "Luke 'Ming' Flanagan admits ‘atrocious’ timing after calling gardai ‘corrupt’". Irish Independent. 2 February 2013. 
  35. ^ McConnell, Daniel (10 March 2013). "'Ming' penalty points wiped as he cites historic Dáil law". Sunday Independent. Retrieved 11 March 2013. 
  36. ^ "Brazen TD Luke 'Ming' Flanagan now admits four points quashed". Irish Independent. 13 March 2013. Retrieved 13 March 2013. 
  37. ^ "Luke 'Ming' Flanagan admits he had two penalty point offences cancelled". RTÉ News. 13 March 2013. Retrieved 13 March 2013. 
  38. ^ "Ming: I want my penalty points back". TheJournal.ie. 
  39. ^ "Turf cutters ‘vindicate their rights’ and cut turf in Roscommon and Galway". TheJournal.ie. 29 June 2013. 
  40. ^ a b "Luke 'Ming' Flanagan to contest European Elections". RTÉ News. 21 March 2013. Retrieved 22 March 2014. 
  41. ^ "‘I’m done dealing with the monkey, I want to deal with the organ grinder’ – Ming on his European bid, being a mosquito and drugs". TheJournal.ie. 
  42. ^ ""Some people quote Shakespeare, I quote Rage Against the Machine: "It’s time to take the power back.""". Journal .ie. 26 May 2014. Retrieved 27 May 2014. 

External links[edit]

Oireachtas
Preceded by
Michael Finneran
(Fianna Fáil)
Independent Teachta Dála for Roscommon–South Leitrim
20112014
Vacant
European Parliament
New constituency Member of the European Parliament for Midlands–North-West
2014–present
Incumbent