This much I know: Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan

THE most rewarding thing about my job is the sense of achievement when I actually get something done.

In politics, you have to put boundaries around your work and the rest of your life. If you work 24/7 you will lose your sanity and have no chance of longevity. I’m pretty good at taking time off.

I’ve been talking out of turn my whole life, not officially maybe, but ever since I was in school I’ve never shut up. My first real attempt at public speaking was on the hustings in the 1997 General Election. I made a mess of it, diving straight in, but I often compare public speaking to wiping your posterior — it’s not the easiest thing in the world to do but you get better at it with practice.

I would not use the word ‘enjoy’ to describe my first months in the Dáil. It took a lot of getting used to, being away from my wife and children, and not being able to give as personal a service to my constituents as I was used to.

I have about 8,500 friends on Facebook and 4,000 followers on Twitter. Social media is one hell of a tool. But it took me a while to realise that every message I post reaches all these people and not just my close friends.

I am agnostic. I don’t believe in fate or anything connected to hocus pocus of any kind.

I do believe that the only person to agree with you on everything in politics is a liar.

90% of people who recognise me are generous and friendly. Sometimes I enjoy being in the public eye, it depends on my humour. But it isn’t something you can switch on or off. The media expect you to be ‘on’ all the time.

Age should not be a barrier to doing anything if you are good enough at it. The person I learnt most from when I was a child was my grandmother and she was then in her 80s and 90s.

Having kids changed me utterly and it made me realise my parents were as close to perfection as possible. Up until then I hadn’t thought that to be the case but now I know just how difficult it is to be a parent.

It wasn’t martyrdom on my part to take a 50% cut in my TD’s salary. I am still well paid and can give the other half to community projects. We pay our public and semi-state workers far too highly in Ireland.

My father has many admirable traits. One thing he taught me is how to pick myself up off the floor whenever I get knocked down in life.

Roscommon has the longest border, the mightiest river and fewest traffic jams in Ireland. It might be known as the county of sheep stealers but if that is the case we certainly stole the right ones as we also have the very best lamb in the country.

I will be out turning turf on the day of Obama’s visit. I won’t be wasting a lot of mental energy on the occasion. I’m disappointed in his performance since he took office. The bombings have increased and, as a former cannabis user himself, he has been slow to do anything about getting it legalised.

My campaign to legalise cannabis is the one that attracted all the media attention to me in the first place, although I got into politics initially over better rights for people in rented accommodation. I was on the dole and renting at the time. I have made the decision not to smoke cannabis in the Republic until the law is changed because I want to protect my wife and children from further media scrutiny.

I never set out to be a maverick, it’s just the way things turned out. It has to be good to go against the consensus sometimes though. I don’t believe that people should be made to feel bad for being different.

Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan is a social campaigner and one of Ireland’s more flamboyant politicians, perhaps best known for his long running campaign to legalise cannabis. He was elected as a TD for the Roscommon-South Leitrim constituency at the 2011 general election.


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