The Irish tricolour is one of the most poignant symbols of the Emerald Isle. It is recognised as the national flag of Ireland worldwide and can be spotted flying high above government buildings in Dublin.
The story of the Irish flag only adds to our country’s rich tapestry. It has appeared at key moments in Irish history and represents so much to the people of Ireland.
Not only that, it has inspired political figures further afield and takes a special place in millions of hearts across the globe.
Here are ten interesting facts you may not have known about the Irish flag.
10. It is a symbol of peace
The Irish flag can be recognised by its three vertical stripes of green, white and orange, all equal measure. However, what does each colour mean? Well, in simplistic terms green (always at the hoist) represents Irish Nationalists/Catholics, orange represents people from a Protestant/Unionist background and white in the middle signifies peace between the two.
The green, a shade resembling Ireland’s landscape, symbolises the Republicans while the orange stands for the Protestant supporters of William of Orange.
The two are held together in a lasting truce represented by the colour white. The flag is used by nationalists on both sides of the border.
9. It was designed by French women
In 1848 Young Irelanders, Thomas Francis Meagher and William Smith O’Brien were inspired by mini-revolutions in Paris, Berlin and Rome. They travelled to France where three local women presented them with the Irish tricolour.
The flag was inspired by the tricolour of France and was made from fine French silk. On their return home the men presented the flag to the citizens of Ireland as a symbol of lasting peace between the ‘orange’ and the ‘green’.
8. It was first flown in Co. Waterford
Irish nationalist Thomas Francis Meagher first flew the tricolour from the Wolfe Tone Confederate Club in Waterford city. It was 1848 and Ireland was in the throes of a political and social movement referred to as Young Ireland.
Waterford-born Meagher led the Young Irelanders in the Rebellion of 1848 before later being tried for treason. The flag flew for a full week before being removed by British troops. It would not fly again for another 68 years. Meagher declared at his trial that the tricolour would be flown proudly in Ireland some day.
7. The flag before had a harp
Before the tricolour, Ireland had an all green flag with a harp in the middle, the country’s national symbol. It is believed to have flown as far back as 1642 by Irish soldier Owen Roe O’Neill. It remained the unofficial Irish flag until the 1916 Easter Rising after which the tricolour became more widely accepted.
During the Easter Rising, both flags flew side by side above the rebel’s headquarters at Dublin’s General Post Office. In 1937, after being a symbol of the Irish Free State for 15 years, the tricolour was declared the official flag of Ireland. The harp remains our national symbol to this day.
6. It flew a second time in Dublin
The second time the tricolour was flown was on Easter Monday, 1916. It flew beside the green harp flag. Billowing from the top of the GPO in Dublin, it stood as the national flag above the hub of the rebellion until the end of the Rising.
Three years later it was used by the Irish Republic during the War of Independence and shortly after by the Irish Free State.
5. Orange, not Gold
So we know the Irish flag is green, white and orange. It is a symbol of peace and aims to acknowledge every Irish person regardless of political sway or religious belief.
Moreover, it is for this reason the orange stripe must not be depicted as gold.
The orange was added to the flag to make sure Irish Protestants felt part of the country’s independence movement. Despite this, it has been referred to as green, white and gold in songs and poems, and the orange on faded flags can sometimes look a more dark shade of yellow.
The Irish Government makes it very clear however that the orange should not appear as such and any reference to gold “should be actively discouraged.” It also advises that all worn-out flags should be replaced.
4. No flag should fly higher than the Irish flag
There are strict guidelines to flying the tricolour, one being that no other flag should fly above it. If being carried with other flags, the Irish flag should be to the right, and if the European Union flag is present, it should be to the direct left side of the tricolour.
Other rules include not letting it touch the ground and avoiding getting it tangled up in any nearby trees. The rules are merely guidelines to maintain respect for our national flag at all times.
3. It should never be written on
This is one guideline that is often not adhered to, and yet government advice states the Irish flag should never be defaced with words, slogans, chants or drawings.
It should also never be carried flat, draped over cars or boats or used as a tablecloth of any kind. The only exception to this rule is at funerals when it can be draped over a coffin with the green stripe at the head.
2. It inspired the Indian flag design
Ireland and India took similar journeys in their struggles against the British Empire, and many connections were made during the independence movements across the two countries.
It is suggested therefore that the Indian flag took inspiration from Ireland’s national flag, adopting similar colours for their national symbol. The stripes on the Indian flag, however, lie vertically with saffron at the top to represent strength and courage, white in the middle as a symbol of peace and Indian green across the bottom signifying fertility of the land.
The “Wheel of the Law” sits in the middle of the white stripe. It is another fine example of freedom, independence and pride.
1. The tricolour can now fly at night
Until 2016 the protocol for flying the Irish flag was limited between sunrise and sunset. It is believed to be bad luck for a national flag to be flown after dark.
However, on January 1, 2016, the tricolour was proudly raised at Dublin Castle and was left to fly all night under illumination to commemorate the Easter Rising 100 years on. The National Flag guidelines have since been changed to allow it to fly at night. It must be visible under a light at all times.