Sunday 18 March 2018

My penalty points excuses don't hold water, Ming admits

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan TD speaking to constituents in Castlerea
Luke 'Ming' Flanagan TD speaking to constituents in Castlerea
Caroline Crawford

Caroline Crawford

BRAZEN TD Luke 'Ming' Flanagan has admitted his excuses for having penalty points quashed do not hold water.

The Independent TD was addressing locals in Castlerea, Co Roscommon, at a public meeting into the future of Harristown House in the town last night.

Speaking at the beginning of the meeting, Mr Flanagan did made minimal reference to his recent controversy over penalty points. Instead, he focused on the local issue criticising the Prison Service for its lack of consultation with locals on the issue of Harristown House.

The under-fire TD, who admitted that his actions let down his constituents but insisted he will not resign, had requested time to speak to the crowd before the beginning of the meeting at 9pm. However, he failed to refer to the issue.

Locals who attended the meeting told the Irish Independent of their anger at the controversy.

A number of residents said they were disappointed in Mr Flanagan and felt he had still had questions to answer.

Mr Flanagan was speaking at a public meeting to discuss plans by the Irish Prison Services to develop Harristown House into an open prison.

The only reference made to the penalty points controversy was when Mr Flanagan dismissed the assurances given by by the Governor of Castlerea Prison, Martin Reilly.


Criticising the governor for saying it was unfortunate that the story on the prison broke before they had the plans formalised, Mr Flanagan seemed oblivious to his own situation when he retorted; "You say one of the biggest regrets was that this story got out but that isn't one of our key regrets, we're actually delighted it got out."

When the governor corrected his comments, insisting he had never used the word regret, Mr Flanagan added; "That was a bit like my excuse, it's not holding water."

The Prison Service has confirmed that up to 15 prisoners will be accommodated at Harristown House when the facility is operating at full capacity.

The move has caused concern among local residents.

After the meeting Mr Flanagan left the building through a side entrance to avoid the waiting media.

Mr Flanagan's appearance follows his allegations in the Dail that a garda and council official facilitated quashing his penalty points on two separate occasions.

However, the Irish Independent revealed yesterday that Mr Flanagan pleaded with gardai to wipe his fine for using his mobile phone while driving, claiming it was a "once off".

Roscommon county manager Frank Dawson later confirmed he is the official referenced by Mr Flanagan as having "sorted out" the TD's penalty points.

However, he rejected the allegations, insisting he will take all steps necessary to protect his good name and reputation.

Mr Dawson later issued a statement on the matter confirming that he was forwarding his account of the incident to investigating gardai.

The council official refused to answer any questions in relation to the matter when approached yesterday.

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