An Bhratach Náisiúnta – Flag of Ireland

Originally published for the 2006 CIF programme

An Bhratach Náisiúnta

An Bhratach Náisiúnta

There are a number of flags that represent Ireland, from the Red Saltire that represents the Cross of Saint Patrick to the shamrock-crested green banner that represents the Ireland rugby team. The national flag of Ireland, or ‘An Bhratach Náisiúnta’, is the official flag of the Irish Republic.

The national flag of Ireland consists of three equal-sized vertical rectangles of orange, white, and green. The flag is twice as wide as it is tall. The green side is by the flagpole. The flag is flown at all government buildings and is frequently seen outside private buildings such as hotels and supermarkets. Today, it is usually accompanied by the EU flag. Many people who haven’t been to Ireland will recognise the flag from its enthusiastic waving by Ireland fans at international soccer and rugby matches. Also called the “Tricolour”, the Irish flag has its origins in the political climate of the mid-ninetenth century but still carries a political message today.

The orange stripe represents the Irish Protestant tradition, while the green signifies the older Gaelic and Anglo-Norman, mainly Catholic, element in the population and the white represents the hope of peace between them. The Tricolour was first unfurled at a public rally in 1848 by nationalist Thomas Francis Meagher, who declared: “The white in the centre signifies a lasting truce between the ‘Orange’ and the ‘Green’, and I trust that beneath its folds the hands of the Irish Protestant and the Irish Catholic may be clasped in generous and heroic brotherhood.” It was adopted as the national flag of Ireland upon independence from Britain in 1921. Article 7 of the Constitution of 1937 formally confirmed its position.

Between 1848 and 1921 the tricolour appeared in a number of designs, sometimes with different colours. Some flags used in 1848 placed the orange stripe next to the staff and in at least one flag the order was orange, green and white. Throughout the period though and since medieval times, the national emblem of Ireland has been the harp. The heraldic harp is also used by the Government and its agencies and features on the Irish euro coins.