Tuesday 21 November 2017

Controversies fail to derail campaign

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan. Photo: Tom Burke
Luke 'Ming' Flanagan. Photo: Tom Burke
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

IT'S difficult to figure out what exactly Luke 'Ming' Flanagan is doing right but somehow it seems to be working.

In just his third year as a national politician Ming has managed to become embroiled in more controversies than most public representatives encount-er in their entire careers.

But for every time he forgets to tell us he had penalty points quashed or gets involved in a sexism row he somehow further endears himself to voters.

When he first put his name on the ballot paper for the 1997 general election he was treated as a joke. With an image styled on Flash Gordon's nemesis Ming the Merciless and a campaign centred on the legalisation of cannabis it's not difficult to see why he got little more than 500 votes.

He failed to get elected in a subsequent European and general election but eventually convinced the people of Roscommon to make him a county councillor in 2004.

Ming built up a strong rural base campaigning for the rights of turf cutters when EU rules sought to end the practice.

When the country's economy collapsed Ming's anti-establishment views became the politics du jour and he topped poll in the 2011 general election.

However, the national stage had its pitfalls and soon after his election he was forced to quit smoking cannabis after a complaint was lodged with gardai about his drug use.

One of his colleagues, Fine Gael TD Mary Mitchell O'Connor took offence to a conversation between Ming and Independent TD Mick Wallace in which she was referred to as "Miss Piggy".

Along with Mr Wallace, Clare Daly and Joan Collins, Ming built close ties with garda whistleblowers Maurice McCabe and John Wilson when they approached the independent TDs with their allegations about quashed penalty points.

But his support for the two whistleblowers also led to his most embarrassing political blunder when the Sunday Independent revealed he also had penalty points wiped.

Ming defended his failure to disclose his own points in the Dail but his image was undoubtedly damaged.

He did further damage when he branded gardai as "corrupt".

But as the Irish Independent Millward Brown polls suggest either the electorate either is still taken by Ming or it would prefer if he applied his trade outside of the country.

Irish Independent

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