How Luke Ming Flanagan quashed his penalty points
Roscommon independent TD has left more questions than answers
Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan’s Dáil statement on Tuesday was an extraordinary performance, drawing an almost uniformly negative public reaction. In local vox pop interviews in his native Roscommon – where he might have expected some support – or on social media sites, which tend to be less forgiving, Flanagan fared equally poorly as he attempted to justify the cancellation of penalty points on two separate occasions in 2011.
After a brazen Dáil speech in which he portrayed himself as a passive victim (others, not him, had cleansed his points), he gave an equally unapologetic interview on TV3 that night. But Vincent Browne squarely backfooted him by forcing him to admit it was he who wrote a letter to the Garda Síochána asking for his first set of points to be cancelled. So much for being the passive victim.
In the process of those immensely damaging performances, Flanagan also pointed the finger at a local garda sergeant and an unnamed council official. The hypocrisy of his situation was crystal clear. Here was a politician who fronted a campaign that alleged “corruption” within the Garda in the form of more than 50,000 penalty points notices being quashed.
Here was a politician who approved his three Independent colleagues in the Dáil naming names under parliamentary privilege. Here was a politician who never told them or anybody else that he himself had availed of cancellations, not once but twice. Here was a politician who denied on Twitter and to the media that his points had been quashed, when in fact they had been.
Yesterday – perhaps realising the gravity of his situation – he struck a far more contrite tone on his local radio station, Shannonside Northern Sound, accepting “it was corrupt what I did”, but insisting he would not resign.
County manager returns
Meanwhile Roscommon county manager Frank Dawson cancelled a trip to the US yesterday to issue a categorical statement utterly rejecting the allegations that he “sorted out” Flanagan’s penalty points.
Pressure will now come on Flanagan to explain fully the circumstances behind the two incidents, in June 2011 and in December 2011, when he was caught using a mobile phone while driving. It it conceivable it could also form the basis of a Garda investigation.
Flanagan told gardaí he was on Dáil business in June 2011. There is constitutional protection for TDs that prevents them from being arrested on the way to the Dáil.This dates back to the Civil War and has been rarely evoked in recent times.
No Dáil business
The strange thing about June 3rd, 2011 – the date of the first incident – was that it was a Friday and the Dáil was not sitting that day. He will have to explain what Dáil business he was on. Another difficulty is that Flanagan was “definite” in denying points were quashed when asked about it on Twitter. That will raise questions about his honesty.
How will it play in Roscommon Galway East ?
When Bruce Arnold asked the voters of Roscommon not to vote for Sean Doherty in the 1980s, the Fianna Fáil TD topped the poll. However, there is little sense of locals responding negatively to the Dublin establishment this time – Flanagan’s actions have been very politically damaging for him in his constituency.