Miracle for Ming

White smoke brings temporary relief for pointless Flanagan

With the Dáil in the throes of its annual Cheltdown and those not interested in horses switching attention to the Habemus Papam Handicap Chase, a quiet few days were in prospect for Leinster House.

But these things never work out as planned.

The Government is busy preparing for the St Patrick's weekend airlift with a large complement of deputies set to shake the shamrock across the globe, while all the parties are gearing up for the Meath East byelection.

Then Luke “Ming” Flanagan decides to make a show of himself over the penalty points issue in the Dáil on Tuesday night and fresh controversy lands. Ming the Meaningless – as some were calling him – was the talk of Leinster House yesterday.


But while politicians gleefully denounced Flanagan’s risible attempts to portray his hypocritical acceptance of the nod and wink cancellation of his penalty points as some sort of noble enterprise, there was a distinct lack of on-the-record comment outside the House. Given Ming’s general unpopularity among many members of the main parties, one would have expected a torrent of indignant deputies and Senators to flood the plinth demanding his ponytail on a plate.

But that didn’t happen. Could it be that they didn’t want to invite unwelcome scrutiny on some of their own transgressors?

Nonetheless, even if his fellow politicians were slow to comment, Ming – who had already brazenly denied having his fines quashed when asked by journalists – was the story of the day.

Then came the first miracle of the reign of Pope Francis. As the new Argentinian pontiff stood on the balcony of St Peter's last night, Ming was miraculously knocked off the Six-One News .

When that white smoke billowed above the roof of the Sistine Chapel, one very relieved cannabis campaigner from Roscommon will have been exhaling very deeply indeed.

If they were dancing in the streets of Buenos Aires, Ming must have been doing the cha-cha in the village of Castlerea.

But, for him, it will only be a transitory high.

He’ll know that more than most.

There was no sign of the Independent deputy for Roscommon/South Leitrim in the Dáil chamber when proceedings commenced yesterday morning. Understandable, given the thoroughly deserved mauling he received at the hands of Vincent Browne on television the night before.

Still, at least Mick Wallace spoke up for him on Morning Ireland . That will have been a comfort.

A ringing endorsement from deputy Wallets of VATman infamy is just the thing to shore up a TD's tattered reputation when it comes to the important issue of political probity. It's just a pity that Michael Lowry didn't front up on his behalf too.

Speaking of ringing endorsements, John Halligan of the technical group was designated speaker at Leaders' Questions yesterday. He wanted to talk about units leased at huge expense by the IDA that are unoccupied. Can they not be used to help people who need help to get business enterprises off the ground?

Unfortunately, John hadn't switched off his mobile phone. Phones cause havoc with the Dáil's sound system, but for some reason deputies continually forget to switch them off in the chamber.

Halligan’s attempts to speak were hindered by a buzzing interference.

“The deputy should switch off his phone,” said the Ceann Comhairle.

"It's Luke "Ring" Flanagan" quipped Fianna Fáil 's Billy Kelleher, referring to Mobile Ming and his motoring misdemeanours.

Earlier, his technical group colleague Shane Ross said on radio he thought Ming's actions were "mad". Lord Ross would never find himself in such a situation because he claims not to possess a mobile phone, even though the Dáil gives him a hefty allowance to equip himself with one.

The Winston Churchtown of Dublin South has no truck with such new-fangled thingumys.

John made a half-hearted effort to support his besieged colleague. “Leave Deputy Flanagan out of it,” he chuckled.

But that really wasn’t possible around Leinster House. Flanagan’s pathetic attempts to spread the blame for his self-inflicted troubles by bringing a Garda sergeant and county council official into his sorry saga served only to infuriate deputies more.

The Taoiseach decided to remain above the debacle. Instead, he stuck to goading Gerry Adams, who has done the usual Sinn Féin trick of cleverly inventing a new name for an unpopular Government measure.

Henceforth, when a Sinn Féin politician is speaking about the property tax it will be called “the family home tax.”

Enda, meanwhile, was positively giddy in advance of his trip to the US. He loves going to the States, where folk don’t cringe at his gleeful high fives and lap up his mum’n’apple pie optimism.

The Taoiseach has a two-day visit to the European Council to get out of the way first, but by the time his stint in the Dáil was done at lunchtime, Enda was free from domestic inconveniences for the foreseeable future.

Now, if only Ming could find himself a similar bolthole. But that might be a miracle too far.

Miriam Lord

Miriam Lord

Miriam Lord is a colour writer and columnist with The Irish Times. She writes the Dáil Sketch, and her review of political happenings, Miriam Lord’s Week, appears every Saturday