The tricolour can be spotted all over the world, but what exactly does it represent? Here is the Irish flag meaning and the powerful story behind it.
The Irish flag consists of three distinct colours in the following order from left to right: green, white, and orange.
It is not to be confused with the flag of the Ivory Coast, which is the same three colours but in reverse – a common mistake many around the world make.
It is very similar to the Italian flag and the Indian flag, but the stories behind each of them are very different.
The tricolour can be seen flying proudly all over the world from the windows of the homes of Irish emigrants, from Irish pubs, and, of course, whenever Ireland is playing sports.
It’s a sight we see all the time in Ireland and globally but do we actually know the Irish flag meaning and the powerful story behind it? We think this is a story to be told, and a story each Irish person should know and be proud of, so let’s get to the bottom of it.
Irish flag meaning – what does it represent?
The tricolour, as it’s known in Ireland, is also known as Bratach na hÉireann in Irish.
The three colours have specific meanings: the green represents the Catholic religion, the orange represents the protestant religion, and the white in between signifies a lasting truce or peace between the two.
The troubles in Ireland were a huge part of Irish history when civil war broke out between the two religions, the Catholics predominantly in the south and the protestants in the north. The flag is a sign of peace and unity, but there is a deeper and more powerful story behind this.
The powerful story – a gift from France
The flag was given to Thomas Francis Meagher in 1848 from a group of French women who also hoped for unity and peace between the two religions.
The significance of the colours outlined by Meagher was, “The white in the centre 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”.
However, it was not until the infamous day of The Easter Rising when the flag was flown above the GPO in Dublin, that the flag then became a symbol of Ireland and eventually its national flag.
The flag was flown during the Irish War of Independence and during the Irish Free State until it was given constitutional status in 1937.
Today, it can be seen flying on both sides of the border by Irish nationalists and at GAA games and Irish sporting events.
Despite the flag having significant meaning, it was not used between 1848 and 1916. Instead, a green flag with a harp in the middle was the flying flag at the time.
The tricolour, which would then become Ireland’s symbol from 1916 onwards and eventually the national flag in 1937, was actually inspired by the French Tricolour and the French Revolution.
Irish flag facts – did you know?
Meagher and the Young Irelanders were inspired by 1848 revolutions in Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Rome, Prague, and Budapest, and the tricolour was given to them when they visited Paris to congratulate the French on the revolution.
Many Irish Protestants had been supporters of William of Orange, the Protestant Dutch prince who became King William III of Britain, hence the orange colour in the flag to represent the Protestant religion.
The Irish flag, just like every other national flag, succumbs to several rules whereby it must not be flown below any other flag, it must never touch the ground or become entangled in trees, and if the flag becomes worn and the colours fade, it must be replaced.
Occasionally, Irish flags with green, white, and gold can be seen, which the Irish government have greatly discouraged, to foster peace and unity. The flag should always have orange, not gold.
As well as the white in the middle symbolising peace and unity, it also reiterates the statement in the Irish Constitution that says, “The entitlement of every person born in Ireland to be part of the independent Irish nation, regardless of ethnic origin, religion, or political conviction.”
So, there you go, a powerful description of the Irish flag, including its meaning and incredible history. Next time you see the tricolour flying in Ireland or abroad, you will most likely look at it differently, knowing it has a great story behind it.