Luke 'Ming' Flanagan
|Luke 'Ming' Flanagan
|Roscommon County Council|
|Born||22 January 1972|
Luke 'Ming' Flanagan (born 22 January 1972) is an Irish independent politician. He was elected as a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Roscommon–South Leitrim constituency at the 2011 general election. He was previously a county councillor and Mayor of County Roscommon. He is a social campaigner, best known for his long-running campaign to legalise cannabis.
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. 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. He is a distant relative of the Irish Republican and leader of Sinn Féin Michael O'Flanagan.
He 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. He got 548 votes (1.1%). 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%).
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. 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.
Flanagan supports the cutting of turf from raised bogs despite a European Union ban. 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.
Roscommon County Council
He returned to his native Castlerea in County Roscommon and contested the 2004 local elections, and was elected to Roscommon County Council, topping the poll and getting elected on the first count, defeating sitting councillors John Murray and Danny Burke. 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.
Mayor of County Roscommon
On 28 June 2010, Flanagan was elected as the Mayor of Roscommon County Council. On 27 July 2010, Flanagan was the subject of debate 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.
2011 general election
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.
Following his election to the Dáil, Flanagan nominated independent John Murphy to replace him on Roscommon County Council.
When he was elected in 2011, the Roscommon-South Leitrim TD kept his promise to only keep half of his €92,672 salary and distribute the rest to local projects. He will not be handing it back to the State because he says it would only be pumped into the banks.
In March 2011, Flanagan announced that he was quitting smoking cannabis in Ireland in order to protect his family and focus on the issues for which he stands. He will still smoke cannabis when he goes abroad. A Fianna Fáil councillor from Kilkenny had lodged a formal complaint to the Garda Síochána about Flanagan'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 will continue to campaign for the legalisation of cannabis.
In July 2011, Flanagan said he had no reason to apologise for an incident in which a Dáil microphone picked up a conversation he had with fellow Independent TDs Shane Ross and Mick Wallace disparaging the appearance of Fine Gael TD Mary Mitchell O'Connor. 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".
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.” 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.
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.
Flanagan admitted to "atrocious" timing after calling Gardai "corrupt" on Television, as thousands of people gathered for the State funeral of murdered Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe in Dundalk, County Louth, in January 2013. However, he refused to apologise.
Penalty Points Controversy
In early March 2013, Daniel McConnell in the Sunday Independent reported that Luke 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 because he claimed he was on 'Dáil business' at the time. The stories caused a lot of controversy because Flanagan was involved in a campaign in late 2012 highlighting the cancellation of 197 Fixed Charge Notices out of the 1.4 million issued, which it was alleged were 'inappropriately' quashed. In the Dail, Flanagan admitted he twice had penalty points cancelled.
- "Luke Ming Flanagan". TheJournal.ie. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
- "Mr. Luke 'Ming' Flanagan". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
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- "TDs sent cannabis in the post". RTÉ News. 5 November 2001. Retrieved 6 May 2009.
- "Turf cutters get 15,000 euro payout". The Belfast Telegraph. 13 April 2011.
- Ming, lies and our obliterated raised bogs, Village (magazine)
- "FF to lose control of four councils". RTÉ News. 13 June 2004. Retrieved 6 May 2009.
- "Local elections 2004: Castlerea". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 30 December 2010.
- "Local elections 2009: Castlerea". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 30 December 2010.
- McDonald, Brian (29 June 2010). "'Ming' pulls off merciless coup to become county's first citizen". Irish Independent. Retrieved 4 July 2010.
- "Roscommon Mayor insists tradition can be broken". Shannonside.ie. 27 July 2010.
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- Cullen, Paul; O'Halloran, Marie (10 February 2011). "New Vision tells of public anger". The Irish Times.
- "Roscommon-South Leitrim". Raidió Teilifís Éireann. 26 February 2011.
- Murphy, Cormac. "History in the making as poster boy Boyd Barrett and hard left triumphs". 28 February 2011.
- Siggins, Lorna (24 March 2011). "'Ming' Flanagan quits cannabis to put issues centre stage". The Irish Times.
- "Council welcomes new Castlerea councillor". Roscommon Hearld. 22 March 2011.
- Kelly, Fiach (24 March 2011). "Ming: why I'm giving up dope". Irish Independent.
- "Ming: ‘What did I say that caused offence?’". The Journal.ie. 13 July 2011. Retrieved 13 May 2012.
- "Mick Wallace labels Mary Mitchell O’Connor ‘Miss Piggy’". The Journal.ie. 12 July 2011. Retrieved 13 May 2012.
- O'Regan, Michael (3 November 2011). "Flanagan walks out after turf-cutting exchanges". The Irish Times.
- "TDs would go to jail over household charge". RTÉ News. 15 December 2011. Retrieved 15 December 2011.
- "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.
- McConnell, Daniel (10 March 2013). "'Ming' penalty points wiped as he cites historic Dail law". Sunday Independent. Retrieved 11 March 2013.
- "Brazen TD Luke 'Ming' Flanagan now admits four points quashed". Irish Independent. 13 March 2013. Retrieved 13 March 2013.
- "Luke 'Ming' Flanagan admits he had two penalty point offences cancelled". RTE News. 13 March 2013. Retrieved 13 March 2013.
|Independent Teachta Dála for Roscommon–South Leitrim