St. Patrick’s Day has just passed, and around the world, people honored the occasion with green parties and parades. Of course, in Ireland, it was the same. Across the country’s roads, we witnessed green everywhere. Many people boasted shamrocks and flags, which reminded us that in March, we also celebrate the birth of the Irish Flag.
Created a little over 100 years old, the Irish Flag has always symbolized Irish independence. It has an incredible backstory that says a lot about the country, its history, culture, and people. In this post, we proudly explain the history and meaning of the distinctive Irish Flag.
A peek into history
The Flag of Ireland is so distinctive that most people believe the Tricolour has always been the country’s flag. But all it takes is a trip back in history to discover that there were other flags. So we’ll try to break each flag down chronologically and explain how the Tricolour became the official flag of Ireland.
The Green Harp Flag
The Green Harp Flag played a significant role in several defining moments in Irish history. Its first most prominent appearance was in the Irish Confederate wars in 1642. On that occasion, O’Neill’s forces flew the Confederate flag for the first time.
Later, the Society of United Irishmen also used the Green Flag with a gold harp. Founded in 1791 by liberal-minded Presbyterian merchants, this group hoped to bring about radical reform of the Irish parliament.
Daniel O’Connell also used Ireland’s oldest national flag during his campaign for Roman Catholic liberation in the 1820s. The same flag became associated with Charles Stewart Parnel. It was seen as the principal symbol of the Irish Parliamentary party in the 1870s and 1880s. It was the unofficial Irish flag from 1798 until the early 20th century.
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The Irish Tricolour
As history unfolded, a young man called Thomas Francis Meagher from Waterford brought the Irish Tricolour flag back with him from France.
Having been inspired by the European Revolution of 1848, Francis went to France to learn about the flag, its organization and its methods firsthand. While in France, Meagher was presented with the green, white, and orange flags we know today. This flag was a gift from French women who sympathized with Irish nationalism. Some speculate the French Tricolour inspired the Irish flag.
Meagher brought the flag with him to Waterford. On March 1, 1848, he unveiled it from the window of his Wolfe Tone Confederate Club. Later, in August of the same year, Meagher participated in the Young Irelander rebellion of 1848. The uprising failed, and Meagher was arrested and sentenced to death.
Before his trial, Francis addressed a large crowd in Slievenamon, County Tipperary. He affirmed that future generations would be proud to see the “Tricolour” flying all over Ireland. Meagher was lucky, as his death sentence eventually got converted into deportation.
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The Colors & Meaning
Ireland’s National Flag (bratach na héireann) symbolizes the inclusion of and aspiration for unity among the different traditions of the country. For Francis, who flew the Flag on March 7, 1848, it represented peace and unity among both sides of a divided Ireland at that time. Thomas once stated:
“The white in the center signifies a lasting truce between Orange and Green, and I trust that beneath its folds, the hands of Irish Protestants and Irish Catholics may be clasped in generous and heroic brotherhood.”
Green: Referred to as the Emerald Isle, the color green has always been associated with Ireland. So when it comes to the Irish Flag, Irish Catholic nationalists used the color to represent their struggle for Irish independence from British rule.
Orange: It represents the Protestants of Ireland. Many attribute the color choice to Protestant King William of Orange. In the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, Orange defeated James II, a Catholic king who had ruled Ireland, Scotland, and England between 1685 and 1688. William became a figurehead for the Protestant community.
Considered significant in Irish history, Northern Ireland’s Protestants celebrate this event yearly.
White: Represents the peace between the two sides.
When the Tricolour became the official flag?
It was only at the beginning of the Easter Rising in 1916 – when the Tricolour was flown from the top of the general post office in Dublin – that it became recognized as the Irish Flag. The Irish Republic adopted the flag during the Irish War for Independence between 1919 and 1921, and it continued to be used during the years of the Irish Free State.
In 1937, it was finally given constitutional status and is now the official flag of Ireland. The green flag with the gold harp is now the banner of the province of Leinster, and it is known as the coat of arms of Ireland.
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To sum it up!
The history of the Irish Flag is incredible. It speaks about today’s Ireland. A country with peace between all people and faiths living on this Island.
Green for Catholics, orange for the Protestants, and white for peace, this was the start. However, today the flag means much more than that; it represents the Irish culture, people, history, and bright future.
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