Ming the meek makes his point
The ’Technicality Group’ has three leading lights – Wallace, Daly and Flanagan
From left: Mick Wallace, Joan Collins and Claire Daly and Luke Ming Flanagan. pictured last year. Photograph: Bryan O'Brien / THE IRISH TIMES.
A new political cohort has emerged in Leinster House – The Technicality Group.
These are the deputies who may have transgressed (think Mick Wallace and his tax affairs) but manage to escape censure on a technicality. Group members are distinguished by their brass necks and fantastic ability to turn a blind eye.
Hypocrisy and victimhood also come with the territory.
At the moment, The Technicality Group has three leading lights – Wallace, Clare Daly and Luke Ming Flanagan.
Its members were to the fore last night when the Spent Convictions Bill came up for discussion.
By the time Ming finished speaking, listeners could have been forgiven for thinking they had wandered into a debate on the Compromised Convictions Bill.
Although, in fairness, it was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time for Flanagan. He just happened to receive his penalty points when there was somebody in a position of influence around to have them wiped from the record.
In another unfortunate twist, he just happens to be in Leinster House this week. If he were in the Vatican instead, Ming would surely be a front runner in the race to the papacy.
Thanks to his wonderfully self-serving performance last evening, the holier than thou Roscommon deputy presented a most immaculate set of credentials to the House. (At least according to himself.)
Others may enter into the distinctly dodgy practice of actively seeking to have motoring penalty points quashed while others may find themselves sucked into a world of corruption by domineering Garda sergeants and sinister senior county council officials, but Ming the Infallible can do no wrong.
He may be part of a crusade against certain members of An Garda Síochána for sorting out people’s points problems, among other things, but when he turns out to be the beneficiary of such carry-on – not once, but twice – Flanagan has no problem standing up in Dáil Éireann and bleating about the incidents as if they represent an injustice perpetrated against his own pristine character.
What was he to do?
The first time, Deputy Flanagan was forced by a sergeant to write to the station and request that his offence be wiped because he was entitled to do so under an antiquated rule which states that TDs cannot be snared by the police on their way to or from Leinster House.
This was after the officer heard that Ming had been done for using his mobile phone while driving.
What did this custodian of the law do but “insist” that Flanagan put pen to paper to avoid the fine?
Listening to Ming in the Dáil yesterday evening, you’d believe that policeman all but frog-marched him to the biro and Belvedere Bond.
Ming the meek – just ask all those people who have protested with him down through the years – always does what the local constabulary tell him to do.
But “that’s not all” he told the Dáil, anxious to show how innocent people can be drawn into this murky world where “corruption is like rust”, starting out unseen but soon corrupting everything it touches.
But not Ming, of course.
On this second occasion, in December 2011, six months or so after he endured the first atrocity, Deputy Flanagan was stopped again for talking on his mobile phone while driving.
This time, he mentioned it at a county council meeting and soon afterwards, a senior official got in touch to say he had sorted out the matter for him.
As you can imagine, Ming was outraged. On the spot. On both spots.
As outraged as any ordinary crusader for the little man trying to combat “systemic abuse” by shadowy establishment forces would be.
As outraged as only Ming can be, and frequently is.
And he did nothing. Said nothing.
Until the whole penalty points thing blew up and the Technicality Group ran with it.
And until the newspapers got wind of the penalty points that were turfed under the carpet for him.
Well, of course, it was the Garda’s fault for leaking the information. That’s “illegal” he told the Dáil, stung that such a thing could have been done to him.
And he would have said something (if not at the actual time, which some might consider the right moment to act) sooner, only he was keeping his powder dry so he could use his story to ambush the Minister for Justice.
No such thing as points getting quashed? At which point he would astonish Alan Shatter with his news.
“Whatever about the case whereby the points were removed on the grounds of travelling to the Dáil,” he told the House, there was no case for the council official doing him a turn.
He’s been terribly hard done by.
Ming is now hoping he will be allowed to pay the fine which “should have been imposed on me as punishment in the first place”.
He believes 15 other parliamentarians were let off penalty points.
They should make amends too, he sulked.
(The TDs and Senators we met last night were moaning about their points and how nobody ever told them how to have them scrapped.)
Wallace, Flanagan and Daly spoke one after another, then left the chamber together.
Another mortifying night for the Technical Group. But, by the look of the Independent trio, a triumph for the Technicalities.