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Ireland

Éire, Republic of Ireland, Poblacht na hÉireann

Last modified: 2013-07-30 by rob raeside
Keywords: ireland |
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[Irish flag] 1:2 |  image by Vincent Morley
Use of flag confirmed 29 December 1937.


National Flag and Emblems currently in use

Regional and local flags

Flags of the Armed Forces

Flags used afloat

Historical Flags

Other Irish Flags

Flags of Political Parties

See also:

Other sites:


History of the Flag

The stripes were found in a different order in the early (pre-independence) days.
James Dignan,
14 May 1996

The oldest known reference to the use of the three colours (green, white and orange) as a nationalist emblem dates from September 1830 when tricolour cockades were worn at a meeting held to celebrate the French revolution of that year - a revolution which restored the use of the French tricolour. The colours were also used in the same period for rosettes and badges, and on the banners of trade guilds. There is also one reference to the use of a flag 'striped with orange and green alternately'. However, the earliest attested use of a tricolour flag was in 1848 when it was adopted by the Young Ireland movement under the influence of another French revolution. Speeches made at that time by the Young Ireland leader Thomas Francis Meagher suggest that it was regarded as an innovation and not as the revival of an older flag.
Vincent Morley, 8 January 1997

The Irish television channel RTÉ 1 included the following flag-related item on its main news programme last night.

A historian named Dermot Power has established that the tricolour was publicly unveiled by Thomas Francis Meagher, a leader of the Young Ireland movement, at a meeting in his native city of Waterford on 7 March 1848 - exactly 150 years ago today. The report showed the large second-floor window from which he addressed a crowd in the street below and at which the flag was displayed.

This discovery pushes back the history of the flag by five weeks: it had previously been thought that it was first displayed by Meagher at a meeting held in Dublin on 15 April 1848. More importantly, the television report stated that Meagher informed the Waterford meeting that the flag was being shown for the first time. No such claim was made at the later Dublin meeting, an omission which had led to speculation that the flag might have been in use for some time before 1848. This possibility now appears to have been excluded.
Vincent Morley, 9 March 1998

The use of the Irish tricolour flag in the period 1922-39 was almost entirely confined to the territory of the Irish Free State. To many, perhaps to most, Irish people it was still 'the Sinn Fein Flag'. From Hayes-McCoy (1979), A History of Irish Flags from Earliest Times

It was used unofficially by the government in the Irish Free State, but not with the intention that it should become the national flag:

"The government in Ireland have taken over the so called Free State Flag in order to forestall its use by republican element and avoid legislative regulation, to leave them free to adopt a more suitable emblem later."
[PRO document DO 117/100 written in 1928]

In the event the tricolour was adopted as the national flag, but not until 1937.
David Prothero, 1 February 2001

See also:


Colour of the Flag

An official document (115 kbyte PDF file) describing the protocol to be observed when displaying the Irish national flag gives Pantone colours for green 347, and orange 151.
Dean McGee, 18 October 2001

This translate to browser safe RGB as: 
PMS 151 RGB:255-102-0 (#FF6600)
PMS 347 RGB:0-153-102 (#009966)
(Note: conversion from PMS to RGB depends so much on software and monitor settings, parameters and preferences that almost always such conversion is *not* a loss in color detail.)
António Martins-Tuválkin, 18 October 2001

In CMYK values this would be:
Green C 100 - M 0 - Y 80 - K 10
Orange C 0 - M 65 - Y 100 - K 0
Ivan Sache, 18 October 2001 and Jesse Kahn, 3 November 2008

Here is the result, with the flag from the top of the page for comparison:
[Irish flag]      [Irish flag]
image by António Martins-Tuválkin image by Vincent Morley

In spite of it being described on an official website, I am not quite satisfied with the green colour.  I think it it looks way too pale, in comparison with other green flags we have. Maybe (just maybe) 0-153-51 would do a bit better?
Željko Heimer, 21 October 2001

It certainly would. Apart from its paleness, 0-153-102 is also too far towards the blue end of the spectrum.  0-153-51 looks fine on my monitor, but so does 0-153-0.
Vincent Morley, 21 October 2001

The protocol manual for the London 2012 Olympics (Flags and Anthems Manual London 2012) provides recommendations for national flag designs. Each NOC was sent an image of the flag, including the PMS shades, for their approval by LOCOG. Once this was obtained, LOCOG produced a 60 x 90 cm version of the flag for further approval. So, while these specs may not be the official, government, version of each flag, they are certainly what the NOC believed the flag to be.
For Ireland: PMS 347 green, 151 orange. The vertical flag is simply the horizontal version turned 90 degrees clockwise.
Ian Sumner, 11 October 2012


Historical colours

My question is all about the colours or more specifically the third colour on the flag. The Irish Flag is green, white and ____. However, my father was born in 1915 and spent his formative years growing up in Eire in its formative years and described the colours as green white and gold. From personal recollection the flag I remember was gold. I especially remember the flag outside Colbert station in Limerick with a CIE logo in the middle. Though emblems within the flag are now frowned upon. The only place where I could see a justification for my belief was a friend's book of national team colours where at some point in the 80s it shows the Republic Of Ireland's strip going from green white and gold to green white and orange. More than anything else though when did it change?
Kevin Bourke, 30 August 2012

According to G.A.Hayes-McCoy in ‘A History of Irish Flags from the Earliest Times’ (Academy Press, Dublin, 1979) the third colour was sometimes orange, sometimes yellow and sometimes gold, with orange not becoming the predominant colour until it was adopted by the Defence Forces of the Irish Free State in 1923; “army usage influenced the Irish public and the orange stripe ousted the yellow in the popular use of colours throughout the country.” Even so the third colour was still being desribed as yellow in 1934, ‘National Flags’ by E.H. Baxter, and occasionally yellow in 1939, ‘Flags of the World’ by V.Wheeler-Holohan, who wrote that “the green is for Ireland and the white and orange (or yellow) are the Papal Colours.”
David Prothero, 1 September 2012


Meaning of the Colours

Officially (i.e. in the national constitution) the colours of the Irish flag have no meaning.  However many urban legends have arisen to account for the colours.  Some are presented below:

From this webpage: The Green is for the Catholics, the Orange for the Protestants and the white for the peace between them. Every once in a while when you see a green-white-yellow (instead of orange) flag around the country here, that person is basically disagreeing.
Heather, 27 April 2003  [Ed. note: green-white-yellow/gold are the colours of Offaly.]

From a Government webpage: The green represents the older Gaelic tradition while the orange represents the supporters of William of Orange. The white in the centre signifies a lasting truce between the 'Orange' and the 'Green'.

There are a few reason why Green is associated with Catholics in Ireland - Coming from the long struggle for independence. Around the time of the American Revolution, there was anxiety in the ruling classes of Europe; fearing that the ideas of liberty and so on would spread to their own population and spark some kind of revolt. This was very true in Ireland - where resentment to British rule was very strong. Green had always been associated with Ireland as a nation, and with the revolutionary groups within it. For a while around 1776, the wearing of the colour green was actually barred by the authorities, giving rise to the song of the same name.

Green was the colour of sympathy for independence around this time, and has pretty much stuck with that until this day. The modern flag arrives much later, as a compromise flag - Which ironically, today, is used as a symbol for (complete) independence.
Jim McBrearty, 29 April 2003

The orange colour is associated with the Protestants in Ulster and that derived from William III (of the House of Orange and originally the Stadtholder of the Netherlands) who defeated the Irish Catholics at the Battle of the Boyne somewhere in the late 1600s. It was included in the Irish flag in an attempt to reconcile the Protestants with the Irish independence movement.
A.P. Burgers, 26 May 2004


Presidential standard

[Presidential standard] image by Željko Heimer

Flag introduced 13 February 1945 (Hayes McCoy, 1979)
Vincent Morley
, 2 February 2002

The traditional arms of Ireland have the harp on a blue field. A gold harp on a green field (as opposed to the blue of the arms) was the traditional Green Flag of Ireland before the tricolour became popular.
Roy Stilling,
30 May 1996

The evolution of the heraldic harp can be traced in Irish coinage. The harp first appeared on coins in the reign of Henry VIII. From the reign of Henry VIII to that of Elizabeth I the fore-pillar of the harp was plain. In the coinages of James I and Charles I it had an animal head. The naked female torso first appeared in the coinage of Charles II (appropriately enough perhaps) and was a permanent feature from then until 1822 when the Irish currency was abolished. The harp adopted as the state emblem on the formation of the Irish Free State is a medieval instrument, the Brian Boru harp, which is preserved in Trinity College Dublin. Use of this particular harp is reserved to the state so all private bodies are obliged to use harps of other designs.
Vincent Morley
, 27 January 1997

The harp that appears on the presidential standard differs from that shown on conventional representations of the national arms in being less ornate, in not being tilted into the playing position (i.e. it has diagonal rather than vertical strings), and in having only twelve gold strings rather than a larger number of silver strings. The field of the presidential standard is also in a darker shade of blue than the usual field of the national arms, and the ornamentation on the harp is worked in blue thread of the same shade.
Vincent Morley
, 1 November 1999


Irish Coat of Arms

[Irish coat of arms] by Željko Heimer

Source: The National Flag (click on 'The National Flag')
Željko Heimer
, 29 January 2002

Arms introduced November 1945 (Hayes McCoy, 1979)
Vincent Morley
, 2 February 2002


Discussion on the Variants of the Irish Harp

The colour of the strings on Irish harps is not consistent. On the national arms they are white (silver); on the jack and presidential standard they are yellow; on the naval pennant, they were white, as appears from  the photograph in Hayes-McCoy (1979), 'A History of Irish flags from Earliest Times'. These differences reflect the fact that the designs were introduced by independent processes at different times. The relevant dates are:

Naval pennant: December 1939
Presidential standard: February 1945
Arms: November 1945
Jack: July 1947 

For more information, see Séamus Ó Brógáin (1998), 'The Irish Harp Emblem'. This author writes as follows about the presidential standard: 

"This flag was approved by the Government on 13 February 1945. A number of technical decisions were made at the same time, including the decision that ... the strings of the harp be yellow (in settlement of the question raised by Edward MacLysaght, who had insisted that the strings should be white)."
Vincent Morley
, 2 February 2002


Aircraft Markings

[Irish roundel] image by Željko Heimer

The initial marking at the beginning of the Irish air forces was a roundel of green-white-orange, later standardized into green-white-orange stripes, and during 1939-1954 into the shape of the so-called "Celtic boss" in green and orange (similar to a yin-yang emblem). Sometimes this was placed on a white square. Since 1954 the tricolour "Celtic boss" has been used. (source: Cochrane and Elliott, 1998)
Željko Heimer, 30 January 2002

Aer Chor na h-Eireann was established on February 1922 (renamed Oct. 1924).
The 1922-1923 roundel was a classic orange-white-green with rudder stripes. In 1923 it was replaced by wing stripes and rudder stripes. In 1939 a "Celtic boss" roundel was adopted of two colors. Cochrane and Elliott, 1998 show the absence of tail insignia as seen also at this site  (note the roundel on a white plate as reported above) but this image does show a fin flash.

Another change occurred in 1954 added white to the roundel. Again Cochrane and Elliott, 1998 and also Wheeler 1986 showed no tail insignia while in reality there is a fin flash. See examples here, here, and here.
Dov Gutterman, 17 June 2004


Flags for Irish travellers

I came across www.westernpeople.ie/news/story.asp?j=26607, "Mayo plan for national symbol for Travellers".

Here are some extracts:

"A Mayo traveller is leading a major campaign for a Traveller Flag or symbol for their community.

"The work which Bernard Sweeney is currently putting all of his time into and which he is hoping will result in something positive for his community, will be decided in September when the community will vote around the country for the acceptance or disregard of a national symbol for travellers.

"A native of Ballinrobe, Bernard has been travelling around the county for the past number of weeks in the hope of convincing his comrades their community should have an overall symbol which he is hoping will be a flag.

"The idea has now advanced onto a much broader platform and it has been decided that a vote should be taken within the community on September 15th next on a national level. "We decided to organise a vote which will take place in September in which people will decide on a symbol, a flag, or nothing at all. The democracy around it is very even handed. It will include travellers all over Ireland aged 15 and over."

"He himself is 100% for the idea. "There are flags everywhere. There are town, county, boyscouts, club flags, etc, up to the National flag and it is all part of one's identity. So we are just saying why not have a flag that represents travellers. It would identify us as Irish travellers.

"Other ethnic groups around the world all have flags. Personally I think it would be a mark of respect for travellers who have died over the years. For me, we would have it on anti-racism days, celebrations as a badge of pride. It is nothing more than that and will never take away our Irishness."
André Coutanche
, 8 August 2005

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