LATE LAST NIGHT, an innocuous convoy truck full of "peat briquettes" hissed and rasped its way along a secondary, unlit County Roscommon route. The truck is believed to have contained a shipment of cannabis resin with a street value of €50,000. It was delivered to the constituency offices of TD Luke Ming Flanagan - and the truck was being driven by the Irish politician himself.
Ming showed little concern about the possibility of being stopped, smoking a number of joints and chatting amicably on his phone throughout the journey with Justice Minister Alan Shatter.
Last Thursday, the delivery of a similarly sized shipment of fodder from France arrived at parliament buildings on Kildare Street. Flanagan could be seen behind the wheel in the driver's cabin as he rammed the truck into the gates of the Dail while a phone was at his ear. Gardai ran towards the lorry, insisting that the independent TD park the vehicle on the footpath rather than try to gain access to the car park for parliamentary members. The ranking officer on the scene attempted to issue Ming with a warning. However, the TD could be seen with his phone to his right ear, his left ear closed with his index finger so that he could continue his phone conversation, and the Garda was ignored.
A second independent TD, Mick Wallace, has also held long phone conversations with Justice Minister Alan Shatter - often in inappropriate and unsafe environments. A small portion of the yellowed grass in the delivery to the Dail was in fact the head of Deputy Wallace himself. He emerged from the back of the truck, scratching himself on the
back of his jeans with one hand while chatting on his smart phone with
Minister Shatter on the other.
The details of what appears to have been a three-way conference call between Ming, Wallace and Minister Shatter are not known - and are likely never to be revealed given the guidelines and strictures pertaining to data protection and confidentiality under Irish law. Ireland's reputation has transformed in recent years. Half a century ago the Emerald Isle was a parochial, chatty backwater with bad roads and a lack of respect for "officialdom". However, improvements in legislation and changes in attitude have been so radical that as long as ten years ago, it was possible to set up a hedge fund at the IFSC (the International Financial Services Centre) in Dublin's Docklands in a matter of hours - in the UK, the establishment of such a fund would have taken the best part of a week.
Meanwhile, Wallace was subsequently seen directing a number of delivery men into the Dail as they carried slabs of rich, dark Moroccan turf and bales of Amsterdam cattle fodder into Ming's office. When approached by Gardai, he waved them away with the words: "Dail privilege! Dail privilege!" When the Guards continued to accost him, Wallace removed a thin plank from the truck's trailer without another word, and swung it at two of the uniformed officers, all of whom quickly backed away.
Wallace is likely to have been asked by Ming to act as "foreman" for the delivery, as he has experience in the construction sector. However, "Dail bizz on the blower" and simultaneous driving is now rampant among members of parliament. The debate continues.