View attachment 15346 Roscommon councillors will make Luke ‘Ming the Merciless’ Flanagan mayor of the county on a platform of health reform rather than his usual campaign to legalise cannabis.
HE HAS BEEN described as a shaven-headed Charles Stewart Parnell and the epitome of persistence, and on Monday he will become mayor of his native county (in effect, Cathaoirleach of Roscommon County Council). “Barring hiccups, of course – you know anything can happen in politics,” says Luke “Ming the Merciless” Flanagan.
And the independent Roscommon councillor, who is best known for his shaven head, beard and sideburns, and his Flash Gordon comic-strip character middle name, has already ensured that anything can happen during his 13-year political career in the west.
Written off many times as a Monster Raving Loony Party-style eccentric, Flanagan has a commitment to social justice extending beyond his long-running campaign to legalise cannabis.
As he points out, it was a health issue that led to the effort to elect him Roscommon town’s first citizen. An alliance of Fine Gael, Sinn Féin and independent councillors vehemently opposes the downgrading of Roscommon County Hospital. “Fianna Fáil has had the rug pulled from under them on this one,” Flanagan says. A pact agreed by the alliance means he should hold the mayoral chain this year, with Fine Gael taking it for the next three.
Flanagan freely admits that “personal experience” provides much of his political focus. When his late mother, Lily, was diagnosed with cancer he had a taste of the health services – and didn’t like what he saw. “At the same time, my father-in-law would not be alive today if it wasn’t for the treatment he got in Roscommon,” he adds.
In 1997 his experience with the law drove him to run in the general election, on a ticket urging the legalisation of cannabis and as a protest candidate against his landlord, Fianna Fáil TD Frank Fahey. Flanagan got 548 votes.
Early in 1998 he presented himself at Mill Street Garda Station in Galway, having been convicted for possessing cannabis and having refused to pay the £150 fine. To his chagrin he learned his father, Luke, had paid the fine. “My mother put him up to it,” Flanagan says, remembering his mother’s quote in this newspaper that “I wouldn’t like my son to go to prison.” His father was dubbed Ming the Merciful from then on.
Luke jnr had his way later that year, however, when he served nine days of a 15-day sentence in Loughan House open prison, in Co Cavan, for refusing to pay a fine imposed for breach of the Litter Pollution Act.
He ran in the 1999 European elections, polling a respectable 5,000 votes in Connacht-Ulster, and in 2001 he made headlines again when he sent 200 cannabis cigarettes to members of the Oireachtas, as part of his campaign to legalise cannabis.
In the 2004 local elections he topped the poll in Roscommon, and was re-elected on the first count last June.
Now the father of two children,aged five and seven, he has spoken out about the influence of the drinks lobby, about cuts to a teenage health initiative in his area and, most recently, about the rights of turf-cutters affected by the EU-led ban on harvesting in 32 raised bogs.
Again, this is an issue that touches him personally. “My grand-uncle Harry Fleming cut the same area of bog for 67 years, and my father after him, and now me,” he said. “When we didn’t have much money at home it was the turf that my father took in on his Ferguson tractor that kept us in clothes and insured the Hillman Hunter.” He believes that if the EU and the Minister for the Environment, John Gormley, are interested in protecting raised bogs, they would first “repair the damage done by Bord na Móna”.
Flanagan intends to run for the Dáil again, and, like his comic-book hero, he doesn’t give up easily. “And watch out for my T-shirt at the Connacht senior final,” he says. “It’s something to do with Nama.”
Saturday, June 26, 2010
'Ming the Merciless' eyes Roscommon Mayor
An independent Councillor - who sent cannabis cigarettes to all Oireachtas members to try to get the drug legalised - is about to become Mayor of Co Roscommon.
In a new pact with Fine Gael, Sinn Féin and the Hospital Action Committee Councillors, Councillor Luke 'Ming the Merciless' Flanagan is expected to become Mayor later this afternoon.
The controversial councillor says he is hoping he will inspire more young people to take an interest in local politics.
28/06/2010 - 13:57:05
Ming makes Mayor - New mayor willing to go to prison over turf-cutting
INDEPENDENT councillor Luke 'Ming' Flanagan is the new Mayor of Roscommon after his election at the council's AGM yesterday (Monday). Cllr Flanagan secured the position ahead of Cllr. John Kelly with 14 votes to 12 and was voted in by the new HAC/Independent/Fine Gael/Sinn Fein coalition, who overturned the Fianna Fáil led county council alliance, which had been expected to last another four years.
Speaking yesterday Cllr. Flanagan said it was a great honour for him personally and thanked all the people who voted for him. He said the new alliance will guarantee the future of Roscommon County Hospital and will campaign against the ban on turf cutting. Speaking to the Champion he said he will be the first Roscommon mayor to go to prison if the ban on turf cutting is not lifted. In the council chamber the newly elected mayor called Minister Michael Finneran a "born-again environmentalist" who "attacked" turfcutters for causing flooding.
Criticising the HSE, he told council members that he could never forget sitting in a Galway hospital and watch his mother walk into a bathroom that had blood on the
door and overflowing bins and how he lost all confidence in the HSE on that day.
Labour councillor John Kelly, who was lined up to to accept the mayoral chain of office, accused Cllr Flanagan of looking after his own personal interests. He said the new alliance are "gambling" with the future of Roscommon County Hospital and said they have "turned their backs" on agreements made with Fianna Fáil after the local elections last year. He criticised independent councillors for failing to stick to their word and said Denis Naughten TD "instigated the heave after his own one in Government failed".
"Fine Gael don't want to see me in the chair and Fianna Fáil don't want to see me in the chair either because Labour is on the ascendancy."
In relation to the hospital, Cllr. Kelly said he was banking on the fact that Minister Finneran has some power to save services and that he was going to gamble on him. Speaking to the Champion, Cllr. Kelly said the HSE have no plans to downgrade the hospital. He also said that Micheal Finneran could blame the new alliance for bringing down the hospital. Cllr Flanagan said if Cllr Kelly is correct then it just shows that Minister Finneran "only gives a damn about himself".
Meanwhile tempers flared at yesterday's meeting in light of the formation of the new alliance. Cllr. Tom Crosby, who proposed Cllr. John Kelly as mayor, said he was approached by independent councillors Valerie Byrne, Paula McNamara and Sinn Fein's Micheal Mulligan last week and was asked to join the new coalition because of the downgrade of services at the County hospital.
Cllr. Crosby said he could see no downgrade of services and said HAC members were merely "scaremongering" for the pursuit of personal gain and criticised those who betrayed the original agreement forged after the local elections last year. He said "14 members held up that agreement 14 members signed and gave their word."
A heated Paddy Kilduff said he didn't like the underhand way the HAC councillors, Valerie Byrne and Paula McNamara went about reorganising a new coalition."The two ladies nailed their colours to the mast today voting with Fine Gael, good luck to them" he said.
Cllr. Mulligan said Cllr. Kelly initially agreed to join the group but changed his mind after he heard Cllr. Luke Flanagan was also on board.
"He was all in favour, and then a week later he came down to me. I told him Ming was on board and Kelly left I don't know if he got Government instructions from Eamonn Gilmore or what."
Tensions rose when Cllr. McNamara seconded Cllr Flanagan for the position of Mayor and Cllr. Rachel Doherty interrupted. Cllr. Byrne asked Cllr Doherty if she had called Cllr McNamara "stupid". Cllr McNamara in turn asked Cllr Doherty if she had a "problem with her" and asked why she was interrupting her speech to which Cllr Doherty replied "go on we're all waiting for your speech."
Cllr McNamara continued to say Fianna Fáil would see that Roscommon hospital becomes a mere "spoke in the wheel" of Galway Hospital prompting an outburst from Cllr. Orla Leyden(FF) who said "we were the ones who put the pressure on not ye."
A heated debate broke out between councillors Valerie Byrne and Orla Leyden necessitating outgoing Mayor Tony Ward to intervene with threats of adjourning the meeting.
Cllr. Ward said it had been an honour and tribute to have been Mayor of Roscommon and he thanked everyone who assisted him in his year of office. He commended outgoing deputy chairperson Cllr. Jimmy Kenny for supporting him during that time. Councillors thanked Cllr. Ward for his hard work and the tremendous effort that he put in during his tenure and likewise Cllr. Kenny.
Cllr Ernie Keenan, Fine Gael, was voted in as Deputy Chairperson defeating Cllr. John Kelly 14 votes to 12.
Wednesday, 30 June 2010
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