Belfast Telegraph

Anger at debt half mast flags idea

Irish politicians have rounded on a German EU Commissioner over comments suggesting flags of countries struggling with debt should be flown at half mast, branding them careless and irresponsible.

A parliamentary committee said it would be a powerful symbol but one of arrogance, ignorance and divisiveness that would not reflect the principles of the European Union.

The Oireachtas European Affairs Committee urged Energy Commissioner Gunter Oettinger to withdraw the remarks, saying they were inappropriate and displayed a lack of understanding of the difficulties faced by ordinary people in Ireland and across the EU.

"A nation's national flag is a proud symbol of a country and its citizens and should be treated with respect," the committee said in a statement.

"The joint committee calls on the commissioner to withdraw his unacceptable remarks, to acknowledge that such remarks are damaging and to affirm that only in working together as friendly and respectful nations can Europe be restored and its future secured."

Mr Oettinger has reportedly rowed back on his comments as 150 members of the European Parliament called for him to retract them or quit.

The committee, made up of TDs and Senators, said it was dismayed by the remarks.

"The joint committee believes it would be a powerful symbol but one of arrogance, ignorance and divisiveness that would not reflect the principles of the European Union," the statement said.

"Ireland and its citizens have had to make sacrifices in order to set our country on course for recovery.

"In this respect Ireland and its citizens have done everything that has so far been required of it, both in the interests of our own future and the future of the European Union as a whole. Ireland needs the European Union and the European Union needs Ireland."

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