Meeting With Ming

Left to Right – Ciaran, Emmett, Luke, Sean, Paddy, Brian

On Friday (February 6th) a number of activists, myself included, got the chance to meet with one of Ireland’s MEP’s for the Midlands–North-West constituency, Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan.

Luke as you probably know is a long time cannabis activist and politician, and the meeting took place inside the grounds of Dáil Éireann, one of his former places of employment.

Last week I was contacted by Kevin, who worked alongside Ming in the Dáil as NORML Ireland was being established by him (Kevin) and others. The message said Luke was meeting activists in a few days and would I be interested in attending.

Luckily I was available and a couple of days later I found myself in the Buswells hotel, which is just across the road from the Dáil. Buswells is also where NORML Ireland was launched in October 2013

This wasn’t to be the first time I have met Luke. We have crossed paths at various cannabis and political events over the years, often ones I helped organise. One of our previous encounters include him relaxing in my house ahead of an SSDP Ireland event in Cork, when I got him to sign my volcano vaporiser.

I don’t always agree with Luke (turf cutting, how he handled penalty points issue etc.) but I am nearly always impressed by him. Since arriving on the scene almost 20 years ago, he has constantly pushed for cannabis law reform.

He has gone from sending joints to the Dáil, to being a TD in the Dáil and presenting a cannabis regulation bill to be debated and voted on. No easy feat.

His climb from Councillor to MEP is a considerable achievement. Few if any would have predicted these achievements in 1997. Given his political views, lack of political dynasty/family connections, the constituencies contested and more.

You can read about the crucial year of 1997 which started it all here

Also meeting Luke were some familiar faces from the protest supporting Luke’s cannabis regulation bill in November 2013. These were also people I recognised from online activism.

Ciaran and Emmett who are on the NORML Ireland committee, and both involved with SSDP in Galway, were there representing both groups. Ciaran is the chair of the NORML Ireland committee, while Emmett is the medical officer.

Also attending were NORML Ireland committee members Sean and Paddy. Sean looks after the groups filming and Paddy is the webmaster.

Of course as is the way with committees in such groups there is often an array of jobs done by a handful of individuals, regardless of their stated position.

In fact these activists could do with help too! But more on that later.

Those meeting Luke arranged to gather at Buswells around 12:30pm, with the meeting scheduled for 1pm. Luke met us before we left as a group and crossed the road to enter the Dáil grounds.

I should clarify that while I was previously involved with SSDP Ireland, I am not currently. Also I am not a paid member of NORML Ireland (that shall change soon though I imagine) and I am not a member of the committee.

I was attending in a personal capacity as an activist to network with fellow activists, and to blog about the meeting.

So while I feel it is acceptable to give a rough idea of what took place, I think some finer details of the meeting should remain the prerogative of the committee members and Luke to reveal.

As I am sure they will in time, as these details primarily relate to events planned, ideas for brand promotion and so on.

What I can highlight is that the informal hour long meeting touched on a number of topics such as: Luke’s work at the EU level. Plans for NORML Ireland and SSDP Ireland regarding brand and cause promotion, upcoming events, the resurrection of Luke’s cannabis regulation bill, the upcoming general elections and more.

At an EU level I can reveal that Luke has been making contact with MEP’s from across Europe and the political spectrum (in terms of political groupings within the EU Parliament), and there will hopefully be a push by these MEP’s and others at official levels for cannabis law reform.

This push would not just be restricted to just EU institutions, but may look toward the UN and other international organisations dealing with drug policy.

There were discussions about Luke attending an SSDP Ireland event in the near future, and hopefully there will be an announcement in the coming weeks concerning this. This event would be related to a cannabis related initiative the group is undertaking in the college at the moment. More on this matter soon.

Another interesting topic discussed was the potential resurrection of Luke’s cannabis regulation bill. While I cannot go into exact details Luke believes the bill which was defeated two years ago, could potentially be resurrected in the near future.

The proposed individual who would raise the bill I think is a fine choice and hopefully this will come to fruition. More public debate on cannabis is needed, and raising the bill again would bring this about

There were also discussions around promotion, fundraising, events and other matters relating to NORML Ireland. From the ideas raised there seems to be quite a few interesting plans ahead. Some have been concerned the group has been inactive lately, but there appears to be a lot of working going on in the background.

Luke also emphasised that Michael Fitzmaurice, the Ming back candidate who won the by-election for Luke’s vacated seat, is in favour of cannabis law reform. Some online commentators had raised concerns he might not be. Luke revealed that he had help win Michael over on the matter through discussions.

There were also discussions around the upcoming general election, political lobbying and politics in general. There seemed to be a shared view that cannabis would not be high on the political agenda (no pun intended) or at all. It could and arguably should be on the agenda, especially ahead of the general election.

As we get closer to the elections hopefully we will see attempts to get cannabis onto the debate. I know I and others, such as the activists present at the meeting, will try at least.

One of the NORML Ireland committee members also revealed that Howard Marks, despite the recent sad news regarding his health, is still interested in helping Luke and Irish activists however he can. Although sadly we may never see Howard on our shores again given his health.

Howard has been a friend to the activism scene for years and many of us were saddened by his recent health news. It was nice however to hear he sends his regards, and that he is a big fan of Luke’s.

Overall the meeting was enjoyable and I got a sense that there could be a real push if activists across the country got on board. One thing is obvious the committee members I have met are motivated, and this bodes well for the group. But all these plans will be more likely to succeed if these activists are assisted.

I would urge those who feel we need to change things to get active, be it with NORML Ireland, SSDP Ireland or in your own individual way. You can check out the get active page to learn more about doing your part.

I am also hopeful that plans Luke has will put cannabis on the agenda here in Ireland and in Europe.

On a personal level it is always nice to meet and socialise with fellow activists, while time spent in Ming’s company is always enjoyable too.

Make sure to bookmark the blog and stay informed, as hopefully there are some big days ahead.

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