Fellow Independents accuse Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan of damaging their brand

Taoiseach says he has no interest in opinion polls as Fianna Fáil continues recovery

Mon, Mar 18, 2013, 07:45

MARY MINIHAN and SIMON CARSWELL

The penalty points controversy surrounding Roscommon TD Luke “Ming” Flanagan is responsible for a drop in opinion poll support for Independents, according to senior members of the Dáil technical group.

Meanwhile, nine days out from the Meath East byelection, Fianna Fáil has taken heart from the “bounce” it has received in opinion polls.

Independent deputies Finian McGrath and John Halligan yesterday said Mr Flanagan ’s behaviour had damaged their “brand” but conceded they had no power to dismiss him from the 16-member group established to gain similar speaking rights to established parties.

Mr Flanagan had one set of penalty points quashed after he told gardaí he was travelling to the Dáil for a meeting on June 3rd, 2011, a day when no TDs clocked into Leinster House.

He said he had a second set of points waived after a Roscommon County Council official offered to “sort out” the issue, but it was reported yesterday that gardaí had no record of a second set of points being deleted.

Mr Halligan, a Waterford TD and one of the technical group’s three designated speakers at Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil, said he would like Mr Flanagan to step aside from the group.

Mr McGrath, who represents Dublin North Central, said he thought Mr Flanagan and fellow Independent Mick Wallace, who was named for under-declaration of VAT last year, should no longer be in the technical group.

Mr Flanagan could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Independents dropped three percentage points to 16 per cent in yesterday’s MillwardBrown poll for the Sunday Independent , while Fianna Fáil rose six points to 29 per cent. Labour dropped from 11 to 9 per cent, while Sinn Féin dropped from 21 to 20. Fine Gael rose one point to 25 per cent.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday said he had no interest in opinion polls. Being in Government was “not about being popular – Government has to be about doing what is right”, he said after visiting Breezy Point, an Irish-American community in New York where he surveyed the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy last year.