Ming the Merciless should grow up

Ross Hawkes via Flickr

Even I’d forgotten this! Last July Mick Wallace, Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan had a very un-parliamentary conversation about Fine Gael TD Mary Mitchell O’Connor. This was written on July 14 2011 (Vive la France). 

Remember the buckos at the back of the class in secondary school sniggering at all around them instead of passing the Leaving Cert? Well, they eventually grew up (but not by much) and now they’re TDs! And instead of throwing apple cores at the class swot while they should be doing their maths homework, they’re now bitching about parliamentary colleagues when they should be thinking of ways to drag Ireland out of the giant hole it’s in.
In case you’ve been on holiday in Mars, Mick Wallace, Shane Ross and Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, three independent TDs, were caught on a microphone referring to Fine Gael TD Mary Mitchell O’Connor as ‘Miss Piggy.’ Apart from the sheer stupidity of this- has what happened to Richard Keys and Andy Gray not taught them anything about using microphones?- it raises interesting issues about the TDs concerned, especially Flanagan.

Mick Wallace apologised immediately, perhaps aware that it was a case of the pot calling the kettle pink. Shane Ross did likewise, but Ming refused point blank to do so.

He said he had nothing to apologise for and that his comment “they’d want to ban her wearing pink” referred to the proposed dress code for men in the Dáil, which will ban Mick Wallace’s (hideous) pink polo shirts-not the colour, you understand, just the style.

Flanagan fell into the first trap those who proudly declare themselves non-conformist often do; perhaps the reason Mary Mitchell-O’Connor dresses the way she does is because she wants to, and just because her style is the one adopted by the majority does not make it necessarily wrong. Criticising her for being stylish (and she is) is equal to her criticising him for being a scruff. Disregarding the casual disrespect with which he discussed a parliamentary colleague, he said he did not call her ‘Miss Piggy’, Wallace did, and therefore he had not insulted her in any way.

This sort of specious, juvenile arguing seems to Flanagan’s hallmark, as does a general lack of respect for his parliamentary colleagues. Just last week, he refused to shake Enda Kenny’s hand when the latter visited Roscommon in protest at the closure of Roscommon hospital’s A&E. This act did nothing to prevent the closure of the unit and only served to make Flanagan look immature and petty. It is courtesy to shake hands with the Taoiseach of the country even if you profoundly disagree with the way he is running the place.

Likewise, he also refused to meet Barack Obama in protest at the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. All very noble until you remember that these are not wars that Obama started and he is trying to end them in a militarily sensitive way. It sticks in the craw even more when you consider he wore a tux to meet Queen Elizabeth, who is nominally head of the British armed forces, currently serving in… Afghanistan and Iraq.

He essentially became elected on a non-issue; cannabis legislation is a non-starter in a conservative country like Ireland. And dare I say it? It’s not important. There’s plenty of evidence that cannabis is harmful, but nobody has ever died from not using it. Granted, it is effective for pain-relief, but so is morphine. Flanagan could campaign on a hundred and one more important issues than hash and bogs. These are the kind of things that students win elections on; he clearly is an undergrad at heart.

The final proof of this was in the ‘Miss Piggy’ controversy. Even if he didn’t utter the words ‘Miss Piggy’, he still took part in the snickering exchange. His refusal to apologise smacks of childishness; his reaction to a member of the public who complained about the incident, telling her “being perfect” must be “lonely”, was even worse. The fact is when Flanagan should be complaining about the disgraceful downgrading of Roscommon hospital, he is bitching about clothes.

Secondary students are often told to get used to uniforms as they will be wearing one in one form or another for the rest of their lives. Professionals, like those ostensibly in the Dáil, are expected to dress in a professional manner. Someone should tell the forever seventeen year old Flanagan to grow up.

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