Maverick Ming and a tilt at Europe

Is Flanagan about to throw his hat in the ring? We hear he’s been testing the waters

Is Ming Flanagan about to throw his hat in the ring for a seat in Europe? Photograph: PA

Is Ming Flanagan about to throw his hat in the ring for a seat in Europe? Photograph: PA

Sat, Feb 1, 2014, 01:00

Is Ming Flanagan about to throw his hat in the ring for a seat in Europe?

The Independent TD for Roscommon-South Leitrim ran in Connacht-Ulster in 1999 and got 5,000 votes. The quota was 80,000. There were strong rumours in Leinster House this week that Ming is seriously considering running again and this time he won’t be bracketed with the no-hopers in the novelty category.

We hear he has been testing the waters and carrying out research in the sprawling 15-county constituency of Midlands North-West and is close to a decision. “No, I’m definitely not ruling it out,” he said two weeks ago in an interview with Shannonside Radio. And on Thursday, he tweeted this: “Looking for a quote on 1,173,712 election leaflets. Can anyone supply a printer?”

Mischief or message? It’ll be a crowded final field for the four seats with the likes of Mairead McGuinness, Pat the Cope Gallagher, Marian Harkin and Jim Higgins hoping to return to Europe, while some of the more interesting declared starters include Senator Rónán Mullen. Should Ming take the plunge, it could be worth making a trip to the bookies and putting a few bob on him. He is a national figure with first-name recognition.

He may have damaged himself with his penalty points carry-on last year, but he could be the candidate of choice for disaffected voters. He would get the pylon vote and the water vote (not to mention the niche turf and cannabis brigade).

There will be lots of media coverage because he’s colourful. And Ming told Shannonside he will run if people don’t have a decent choice of candidates. “No one, as of yet, has put their name in the hat who would convince me, because as far as I’m concerned they are all way too pro-Europe and we’re getting a kicking by it and someone’s got to stand up for us.”

Michael Noonan was in the Big Apple this week telling the great and the good of the finance community that Ireland is back borrowing cheaply because the markets believe again, apparently.

In between interviews with Bloomberg TV and the obligatory trip to the New York Stock Exchange, Noonan rubbed shoulders with Wall Street moneybags at the “Best of Ireland” gala dinner. Guests bid tens of thousands of dollars – an impressive $191,000, in fact – at a fundraising auction for Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin.

Fine Gael Senator Eamonn Coghlan wielded the gavel on the night and the bidding was brisk. The most sought-after lot was a golf trip to Florida with US Open winner Graeme McDowell, and it had the big boys waving their bigger wallets.

Noonan told the crowd at the swanky New York Athletic Club on Central Park that the Government doesn’t need to hold an election until Easter week of 2016. This, he said, coincides with “the anniversary of the other 16”.

Then he let them in on the plan himself and Enda are hatching. (The Taoiseach has spoken about this on more than one occasion, but it’s the first time we’ve heard Noonan talk about it.)

“We’re going to get de Valera’s old Rolls Royce out of mothballs. We are going to drive it to the GPO” he said. “I will let the Taoiseach out and he’ll go up on the platform to take the salute and I’ll back it up and park it on Abbey Street, and then we’ll go to the country and say, we want you to renew our mandate.” Aah, the things those blueshirts dream about . . .

Some food for thought for the Taoiseach in the latest edition of Network Ireland – Holistic Magazine. Margaret Gray has an interesting feature on “Embracing Ourselves with the Help of the Planetary Transits of 2014”.

In it, she gives us Enda’s psychological-astrological prognosis for the year ahead. “In looking at the birth chart of Enda Kenny it struck me as interesting that on the date of the bailout exit he had transiting Neptune sextiling his Sun/Mercury/Mars natal conjunction.” This is the kind of information he’ll never get from the usual plethora of highly paid consultants.

She continues: “At its most expansive, this could describe a time when someone may be more deeply attuned to the spiritual and creative realms, thereby fuelling greater compassion and connection. At its most limited, this could indicate a time of confusion and illusion of someone’s core identity, thoughts and communication.” Here’s the important bit: “This transit will continue for the Taoiseach throughout 2014. With Pluto transiting his Mars in Taurus he is also being invited to transform how he takes action in the world.”

That explains a lot. And we just thought he was behaving like party leaders do when elections are in the offing.

We reported last October on an attempt by Paschal Donohoe to liven up a dull speech by talking about South Korean pop star Psy, and his mega-hit Gangnam Style. Now the ever-enthusiastic Minister of State for European Affairs is at it again. This time, it was during a speech on Thursday at the University of Sarajevo. “Perhaps the most famous Irish visit to Sarajevo was that of U2 in 1997 as part of their PopMart tour. I understand that this was the first major public concert to take place in your city after the war. After the performance, Larry Mullen jnr said: ‘That was an experience I will never forget for the rest of my life. And if I had to spend 20 years in the band just to play that show . . . I think it would have been worthwhile’.”

Then Paschal ruminated on the possible reason for Larry’s emotion: could it have been their performance of Miss Sarajevo – a song inspired by the lives of ordinary people during the siege of the city? At this point, he warbled plaintively: “Is there a time for keeping your distance? A time to turn your eyes away? Is there a time for keeping your head down? For getting on with your day?” Think Bono meets Fr Trendy. He said: “‘Keeping your head down’ and ‘getting on with your day’ might refer to the efforts of ordinary people to keep their lives and souls intact in the face of terrible suffering. I would like to think though, that now, it could also refer to the steady and purposeful way in which . . . Bosnia and Herzegovina have worked to create a better and more secure life.” He ended with more from the Book of Bono. We hear grown men wept.

Bertie Ahern, when taoiseach, had little time for people halting major infrastructural projects because of environmental concerns. “Swans, snails and the occasional person hangin’ out of a tree” was how he summed up this kind of nuisance. Bertie had a particular gripe about a rare snail which stopped a Kildare bypass for a couple of years.

These days Coalition politicians can be split into two recognisable camps: the ones getting it in the neck from constituents over pylons and those who don’t have any pylons planned for their area.

A prime example of the pressurised politician is Minister of State for Agriculture Tom Hayes, who is opposing plans to build pylons on the K2 route running through his Tipperary South constituency. And it seems Tom may have found his snail.

“Tipperary is a main breeding ground for the under-threat Irish honey bee, which could effectively be wiped out if this project were to go ahead in South Tipperary,” says Hayes. One city-based Deputy said when learning of the danger the pylons posed to hives: “What we have here is an open and shut case of nim-bee-ism.”