The Irish flag should not be confused with the Ivory Coast flag, which features the same three colors but in the opposite order – a common error made by many people worldwide. It also looks a lot like the flag of Italy and the flag of India, yet the tales underlying them are very distinct. The tricolor can be observed flying confidently from Irish households’ windows, Irish restaurants, bars, and, of course, anywhere Ireland is participating in sports.
Irish people celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day in various ways, including snacking on green cabbage and corned beef, chugging green beer, and “wearin’ o’ the green.” It is a spectacle we always see in Ireland and around the world, but do we really grasp the significance of the Irish flag and the profound narrative behind it? This is a story worth telling and one that every Irish individual should be aware of and proud of. Let’s get to it.
Introduction to the Flag of Ireland
The national flag of the Republic of Ireland is a rectangular flag divided into three wide vertical stripes in green, white, and orange, with the green stripe closest to the flag pole. Each stripe is the same size, and the flag is twice as broad as it is tall.
The Irish flag colors are often regarded in songs as green, white, and gold, as it is sometimes flown with a gold stripe instead of an orange stripe. But this is openly discouraged since it discredits Irish Protestant recognition and renders them outcasted.
The History of the Flag of Ireland
In the 1790s, the French Revolution inspired the United Irishmen whose emblem was a green flag bearing a harp. In the late 18th century, green became widely associated with uprisings. In 1795, an opposing organization called the Orange Order was established in remembrance of King William of Orange, a Dutchman who ruled England from 1689 to 1702. Inevitably, these two movements clashed because they held opposing beliefs and opinions, most prominently in 1798 during the Irish Revolution, when these two sides came into conflict owing to differences in their cultures.
During the 1848 Revolution, a cluster of French women presented the tricolor flag to Thomas Francis Meagher, the head of the Young Irelanders. This marked the start of the Young Irelander Rebellion. The women supported his goal of bringing together the diametrically opposed Catholics and Protestants. Meagher initially flew the Irish flag on March 7, 1848, which was up for eight days before it was torn down by the British. Meagher and the other figureheads were given the death penalty at first, but their punishments were later commuted to confinement in Australia. While their revolution was a failure, their flag became the ultimate of all Irish symbols. The flag was adopted as the flag of the Irish Free State in 1922 and was granted constitutional recognition in 1937.
The Green Harp Flag
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Green Harp Flag was widely used to symbolize Ireland. It featured a gold cláirseach (harp) on a green field. Even though it was eventually revised to a blue background, the green variant was soon taken up by the United Irishmen, an Irish political movement affiliated with Protestant and Catholic Irish. The flag was linked with modest patriotism at a time when the tricolor was constrained to more revolutionary movements. The Green Harp flag is based on the contemporary Leinster flag. In addition, Irish brigades used similar designs of the green field and gold harp throughout many American wars.
The Green, White, and Orange Colors of the Irish Flag
Every one of the colors on the Irish flag represents something different. The Irish National Flag, a tricolor of green, white, and orange, is meant to symbolize the inclusion and desire for unity among people of different beliefs on this island.
The green on the Irish flag is believed to represent both the nation’s Catholic community and the revolution. It is believed to have been derived from a previous model of the Irish flag, which was pure green with a gold harp in the middle and was used by freedom fighters to represent Irish patriotism.
The color orange is believed to symbolize Ireland’s Protestant community as it was used for William of Orange, or King William III of England, Ireland, and Scotland. William III, a Protestant king, is particularly renowned for beating the vanquished King James II, a Roman Catholic, at the 1690 Battle of the Boyne, granting Protestants authority in Ireland.
White is the third color on the flag, traditionally attributed to peace, from surrender flags to the worldwide symbol of peace, the white dove. This explains why the white portion in the center of the tricolor was chosen to represent the country’s enduring hope that its Protestant and Catholic societies could coexist peacefully.
Different Flags of Ireland
Over the centuries, Ireland has flown a variety of official and non-official flags. Among the oldest, used in the late 15th century, was the blue field bearing a gold harp. It is now Ireland’s presidential standard. The Cross of St. Patrick, subsequently integrated into the British Union Jack, was extensively used in the 17th century. The white boasting a red diagonal cross was linked with the Fitzgeralds family and the Spanish Cross of Burgundy (a red diagonal cross commonly seen in Spain during the 8th century).
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/flowgraph
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- , Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_Ireland
- Whitney Smith, Available here: https://www.britannica.com/topic/flag-of-Ireland
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- Alan J. Duro, Available here: https://www.accentbanner.com/blog/the-history-and-meaning-of-the-irish-flag
- , Available here: https://www.worldatlas.com/flags/ireland