Ming: an offbeat politician who tried to legalise cannabis

Has also admitted taking cocaine and acid


Luke “Ming” Flanagan is facing allegations of hypocrisy and deceit over the quashing of penalty points he received from gardaí.

He previously denied ever having points cancelled but he has now told the Dáil this happened on two occasions. His admission was all the more striking, given his public criticism of the practice and his participation in a noisy political campaign to highlight it.

In his remarks last evening, Mr Flanagan cast the penalty points affair as something which smacked of double-standards by the Garda. Critics of the outspoken Independent TD for Roscommon-South Leitrim argue that it betokens double-standards on his part.

Famous for trying to legalise cannabis, Flanagan is a former mayor of Co Roscommon. He entered the Dáil with 8,925 first preference votes after the 2011 election, his third attempt to win a seat.

An offbeat politician who does not usually wear a suit, he said in his 2011 register of interests that he received a gift from an anonymous benefactor of a Sligo Rovers hat and scarf.

In an interview last month, he admitted taking cocaine and acid in the past but described the experience in mainly negative terms. “I found acid disconcerting. Acid, magic mushrooms and psychedelic drugs are drugs that people underestimate at their peril.”

Flanagan’s righteous statements on penalty points have already drawn sharp criticism. In the Dáil last month, he failed to say he had points cancelled himself when charging that the practice cast suspicion over all gardaí. “These revelations in respect of penalty points clearly show that in Ireland, some people are more important than others and this brings the Garda Síochána into disrepute,” he said.

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter bridled. While agreeing that people must be assured everyone should be treated equally for justice to work, Shatter said the TD’s “little diatribe” was without foundation. “I am afraid the sight of the Deputy in full flight standing on a moral soapbox makes it a little difficult not to throw up,” he said.

“This was from a member of this House who encourages people outside this House to engage in illegality. This was from a member of this House who believes it is appropriate that 70 per cent to 75 per cent of people pay their property tax but is happy to encourage others not so do.

“This was from a member of this House who has encouraged people to violate a law and to create difficulties for the State in a European context. This was from a Deputy who boasts of his drug-taking. This was from a Deputy who has been convicted before the courts.”

It was not their first clash. Last May, Shatter demanded an apology after the TD compared the controversy over raised bogs with Nazi Germany.

Flanagan had described Shatter as a “coward” and said “they had laws in Nazi Germany, too, but thank God some people broke them”. This led the Minister to describe him as an “ignorant buffoon”.