| 11.2°C Dublin

'Fly Irish flag at half-mast' fury

EU energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger is facing demands for his resignation after calling for the Irish tricolour to be flown at half-mast in Brussels.

Irish MEPs have slammed the remarks made by the German commissioner.

Mr 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 German newspaper Bild 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."

Now Mr Oettinger is facing demands for his resignation after a group of Euro MPs have written a formal complaint stating he should either "apologise or quit".

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".

Labour Party MEP Phil Prendergast said it would divide the nations of Europe. "This is totally at odds with EU values, and unhelpful at a time when states most affected by the financial crisis struggle to get public acceptance for their efforts to bring debt under control."

The letter reads: "Any true pro-European is proud to see our flags flying side by side, 'united in diversity'. Mr Oettinger should retract and recant his words or resign."

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.