Sunday, April 05, 2009

Hung out to dry

Readers of this blog will be familiar with my preoccupation with the upside-down flying of flags. A particular favourite is the EU flag, which most people do not realise can actually be flown in this manner - we are not talking stars of David here, after all.

I pointed out that the flag was being flown upside-down at the French Embassy in Dublin on the day of then EU President Sarkozy's visit in July 2008.

Two months later I noticed the same thing at the Hungarian embassy in Dublin (picture above). I did inform them by email and intercom but when I passed the way again a further two months later nothing had been done about it (picture below). In fact the flags at this embassy looked as though they were never lowered since they were first raised.

It was only after the full extent of the Hungarian Financial crisis became known that it struck me this might have actually been a cry for help. So I forgive them, I think.

However, if that had been the case you'd have thought the Hungarians would have flown their own flag upside-down, an option not available to the French.

The subtleties of all this are giving me a headache.

Update 13 Dec 2009

I passed the way again on Sunday and it was impossible to tell how the Euro flag was hanging. It was just plain twisted. But I suspect, on the basis of their previous reactions (see comments below) that the Hungarians had given up on me.

Protocol was being fully observed, however, a little further down the street at the Fitzwilliam Guest house, next door to where I was born (the yellow door). Here was a purely private entity flying the Euro flag correctly. What are we to learn from this?

Update 2 Jan 2010

I passed the way again today and, lo and behold, the flag was the right way up. I don't know whether this signals the end of the hostage crisis or whether Budapest has been persuaded to issue a right-way-up flag, or whether my many bell ringings and representations have finally borne fruit.

In any event, it portends a good New Year 2010.

Congratulations to the Embassy on finally toeing the protocol line.



Magyar said...

No change. It is still the same today (5/4/09).

Póló said...

I passed the way yesterday (30/06/09) and rang the bell. This time I got an answer over the intercom.

"Just to remind you that you are still flying the EU flag upsidedown" said I.

"Yes, we know that" said they.

So what is going on? Do they consider me a passing crank, as the EU flag is incapable of being flown upsidedown, or so they think?

Or, is this really a covert distress call.

I will bring it to the attention of (i) the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs (when I find an appropriate email address for them) and (ii) the EU Commission office in Ireland.

I am quite prepared to support any mission to rescue EU hostages being held on the first floor, should this prove to be the case.

Stay tuned.

Magyar said...

No one more qualified than yourself to lead the charge. The rumour is that you were at the British embassy on another famous occasion.

Póló said...


Two occasions actually - this one and the other one.

Anonymous said...

I think embassies have enough to contend with, dealing with issues such as the financial crisis or trying to assist families who are desperate to find their young daughters who have been trafficked illegally into Ireland and have vanished. The purpose of an embassy is to be a lifeline for its own citizens in that country and to keep an amicable relationship between the country they are in and the one they represent. You obviously don't have a very realistic grasp on life if all that bothers you is which way the flags are hanging. Go and do something worth while with yourself instead of blowing smoke and hot air up your own arrogant ass.

Póló said...


Always nice to see someone defend with passion the institution for which they work.

A pity then when their sense of humour is overcome by their diligence in defence.

As it happens, I have fond memories of Budapest from 1992. I am also well aware of the thankless job of those beleaguered souls working in Foreign Embassies, particularly in the Protocol sections. We have a few of these ourselves, and I know my colleagues do a great job.

And I despise those who traffic in persons. I gather Ireland is not the only country of destination and that there is also a problem within Hungary itself.

I trust the Hungarian embassy here is getting full cooperation from the local police force.

The flag is a minor matter and just a bit of divarsion. Having said that, it is no harm to know the right way up, and I think you have got the wind direction wrong in your final sentence.


Póló said...

The rude comment above [Anonymous 16 April 2012 at 09:30] had come from the Hungarian Foreign Ministry's IP and nobody from that Ministry had appeared to read my reply [Póló 16 April 2012 at 11:04]. So I felt a slightly more proactive approach was needed. I sent the email below to both Ministry HQ in Budapest and to the Embassy in Dublin.


Dear Sir/Madam/Ms

You will see from the above reference that in the course of 2009 I was drawing attention to the upside down flying of the European Flag at the Embassy in Dublin.

My efforts in this regard were intended to be helpful and arose out of my own official work with the EU Peace Programme (Ireland and the Border Counties of Ireland) where I first learned that it was important to ensure that all flags were flown the right way up.

You may have been aware that Dr. Paisley had made hay with the upside down flying of the Union Jack on one occasion; it is always wise to anticipate these things and avoid future embarrassment.

My efforts in Dublin consisted of ringing the bell as I passed by and informing anyone who answered about the incorrect flying of the flag. I did not journey especially to the Embassy for this purpose. I was going from Pearse Station to the Molyneux home in Dartmouth Square to visit my ailing godmother who has since died at the age of 90, RIP.

I eventually resorted to emails to the Embassy, the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and the EU Commission Representation in Ireland.

The error was rectified by the end of the year and I do not know what part, if any, the above might have played in the correction. Clearly that was an end to the matter.

I was then rather surprised, the other day, to see a comment from an employee of the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, berating me for my interest in the matter, implying that I had been giving it priority over more important matters, and finally making an obscene suggestion. [See comment of 16 April at 9.30am]

I replied in what I hope was a civilised manner and waited for any acknowledgment from the commenter. I was not all that hopeful as the commenter's contact with my post had come from a Google inage search for the Embassy of Hungary in Dublin.

As there has been no further contact and the original commenter has not returned to the blogpost to see if there had been any reply to their comment, I thought I might bring it to you attention in case you were in a position to draw the commenter's attention to my reply.


Pól Ó Duibhir

[... continued in following comment]

Póló said...

[... Continued from previous comment]

After a slight lull, I sent a reminder and then received the personal email below from the Ambassador:


Dear Mr Pól Ó Duibhir,

Thank you very much for calling our attention to the position of the European Union flag at the Embassy building. We'll make sure that it will be placed in the right position.

Sincerely yours,

Dr. Tamás Magyarics


I thought it a rather strange reply as (i) the matter of the flag had been resolved some years ago and the correspondence had only arisen at this stage from the abusive comment posted out of the blue by someone in the Hungarian Foreign Ministry, and (ii) there was no reference to the abusive commenter. So I replied in what I hope was a civilesed manner.


Dear Ambassador

Thank you for your response. I had taken it that the matter of the flag had been resolved in 2009 and the reopening of the issue did not concern the flag itself, which I assume has been flying correctly since, but the rather rude comment left on my blog by someone from within the Hungarian Foreign Ministry.

I had no intention of reopening that issue unless I accidentally came across the flag flying upside down again which I would not have expected and, in any event, I would then only have been drawing attention to it in a constructive spirit. You may note that much of the text on my original blog item was in a lighthearted vein.

Since my godmother died in 2011 I do not have occasion to pass the Embassy, so it just occurred to me now to check out Google Street View, which I frequently use for visiting inaccessible places. You will be glad to know that there is no evidence on the current view (photo 2012) for any upside down flag flying at the Embassy (see shot below).

I wish you well during your stay in Ireland. As I mentioned in my email, I have enjoyed official Hungarian hospitality and I hope that the Irish administration is reciprocating on my behalf.

Yours sincerely,

Pól Ó Duibhir


And that is the story so far.