Pubdate: Thu, 24 Mar 2011
Source: Irish Times, The (Ireland)
Copyright: 2011 The Irish Times
Author: Lorna Siggins


INDEPENDENT TD Luke "Ming" Flanagan says he hopes the media will focus
on the issues for which he stands, following his decision to quit
smoking cannabis in Ireland.

"I think the media had become addicted to my smoking habits," the
Roscommon-South Leitrim TD told The Irish Times last night.

"I hope now that I will receive the same treatment as former taoiseach
Brian Cowen, Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fail's
Eoin Ryan, all of whom admitted in Hot Press interviews to having
experienced same," he said.

Mr Flanagan, who opted to take a 50 per cent pay cut after his
election in February, said he took the decision to protect his wife
and two children. "I've looked at my options and I can continue to
smoke cannabis and face a six-month prison sentence and lose my seat
in the Dail, or I can stop.

"It is not an ideal situation, but my wife and children are the most
important people on the planet to me and I don't want my kids to
witness the Garda calling to the house.

"I did present myself to the gardai in Castlerea two weeks ago after
some media publicity and told them that I accepted they had a job to
do and I wouldn't make things difficult for them," he added.

Last week, Fianna Fail councillor John Coonan said he was writing to
gardai to complain over Mr Flanagan's professed cannabis use. However,
Mr Flanagan said there had been no calls to his house since Mr
Coonan's statement.

Mr Flanagan said that his last joint smoked here was "in the past",
but he did not believe he would be precluded in certain places abroad.
He would continue to campaign for the legalisation of cannabis, he

Mr Flanagan has been involved for 14 years in politics. In 1997, he
stood in the general election in Galway West on a ticket urging the
legalisation of cannabis and as a protest candidate against his
landlord, Fianna Fail TD Frank Fahey. He polled 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 UKP150 fine. However, he learned his father, Luke,
had paid the penalty. His father was dubbed Ming the Merciful from
then on.

He ran in the 1999 European elections, polling 5,000 votes in
Connacht-Ulster. In 2001, he sent 200 cannabis cigarettes to members
of the Oireachtas, as part of his campaign. In the 2004 local
elections, he topped the poll in Roscommon and was re-elected in June,
then voted in as mayor.

He has criticised the influence of the drinks lobby and has
highlighted the rights of turf-cutters affected by the EU-led ban on
harvesting in 32 raised bogs. He is committed to social justice
issues, to local authority reform and to job creation in the west
through tourism and food production. 
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