Germany’s European Union [EU] commissioner Guenther Oettinger caused an outrage this week after he called for the Irish tricolour to be flown at half-mast in Brussels to embarrass the country over its economic problems.
Oettinger said he wanted to lower the flag of countries with bad debts before the buildings of the EU as a “symbolic” message to “humiliate”.
He told a German newspaper that there were “deficit sinners” who needed “unconventional” treatment to help them mend their ways.
“There has been the suggestion of flying the flags of deficit sinners at half mast in front of EU buildings,” the member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats said. “It would just be a symbol, but would still be a big deterrent.”
Irish MEPs slammed the remarks made by the German commissioner.
Independent MEP Marian Harkin said that the suggestion was “ludicrous and an insult to every founding value of the EU”.
She said that it was “misguided at best, dangerous and incendiary at worst”.
Government chief whip Paul Keogh said he was taken aback. “Ireland is top of the class when it comes to meeting its IMF and EU commitments,” he said.
Oettinger later claimed he did not propose the idea.
SELL-OFF FOR PAY-OFF
Meanwhile, the European Central Bank is again pressing the Dublin government to cut public sector pay in the budget next December, cut social welfare entitlements and sell off state assets in order to repay its international debts.
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams warned this week of the social consequences of selling off profitable key state assets such as the ESB, as suggested this past week by the Tanaise [Deputy Prime Minister], Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore.
The Sinn Fein leader reminded Mr Gilmore of his party’s election pledge to oppose the ‘short term privatisation of key assets’ and of his criticism of the disastrous sell-off of Eircom [the semi-state telecommunications company].
At the time, the Labour leader described the Eircom sell-off as a ‘debacle’ and compared it the company ‘being bought and sold like a clapped out second car’.
Mr Adams also pointed to figures which show that 1500 a week are emigrating from the 26-County state, while the rate of unemployment continues to increase.
“The record of this government in such a short time is nothing short of scandalous,” he said.
“Over 3000 people joined the dole queues during the recess and last night there was news of 400 more potential job losses in Dublin.
“Labour’s commitment to defending workers did not extend to these families or the many more facing stealth taxes, pension levies and unemployment.
“And now the Labour party is promoting the selling off of profitable key state assets which contribute significantly each year to the economy.”
Mr Adams said there are “very real social consequences to these decisions”.
“What kind of society will we have if there is no public airline, no public bus company, no public energy body, no post services, no forestry body.
“What kind of society will be left when they have sold off our performing, essential state assets?
“It isn’t good enough for Labour to try to blame others for the decisions it is taking.”