Officially adopted by the Irish Republic during the War of Independence with England in 1919, the “Tricolour” was made the country’s official flag when Ireland became an free nation in 1921. Before this time the flag had served as the symbol of the Irish fight for independence. It was flown over the General Post Office in Dublin as a symbol of defiance and Irish unity during the Easter Rising in 1916. The flag itself is thought to have been a gift to Ireland in 1848 from a group of women in France who were strong supporters of Ireland’s fight for freedom. Some say this is why the Irish flag’s tri-color design so closely resembles France’s national flag.
Green, White and Orange
The green on Ireland’s flag is thought to represent the country’s Catholic population as well as to symbolize revolution. It’s thought to have been taken from an earlier version of the Irish flag that was solid green with a gold harp in its center, this earlier flag having been used by revolutionaries to symbolize Irish nationalism.
The white center of Ireland’s flag is thought to represent peace and the everlasting hope that the country’s Protestant and Catholic populations can live together in harmony.
1 Although the 1916 Easter Rising made the Irish tricolour famous, it was actually first flown publicly in Waterford City in 1848. On March 7th of that year, Thomas Francis Meagher, a leader of the Young Irelanders, flew the flag from the Wolfe Tone Confederate Club at 33 The Mall, Waterford City.
2 Irish tricolours had been mentioned in 1830 and 1844, but 1848 eventually saw it flown at meetings all over the country, side by side with the French tricolour, to celebrate the revolution that had just taken place in France.
3 Ireland at the time was deeply divided between Catholic and Protestant, and suffering hugely from the effects of the “Great Famine”, which killed a million Irish people and caused another million to emigrate.
4 Thomas Meagher, the man who first flew the flag publicly, wanted a new Ireland, where Irish Catholics and Protestants joined forces for independence. In February 1848, he made a famous speech. He said: “what strength have I to beat my way towards that bold headland, upon which I have sworn to plant the flag I have rescued from the wreck?”
5 Meagher and the Young Irelanders were inspired by 1848 revolutions in Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Rome, Prague and Budapest, which overthrew kings and emperors from their thrones, and established democratic republics. These revolutions had inspired the Young Irelanders to overthrow British rule in Ireland, peacefully if possible. In April 1848, Meagher, William Smith O’Brien and Richard O’Gorman went to Paris to congratulate the French on overthrowing King Louis Philippe. While they were there, a group of French women wove an Irish tricolour made from the finest French silk and presented it to Meagher.