The Irish flag, or in Irish, the ‘Bratach na hÉireann’ is composed of an equal vertical tricolor combination of green near the hoist followed by white and orange.
Though, it wasn’t too long ago when the Irish flag officially became a part of the Constitution of Ireland.
The flag that is represented by Ireland today was originally used by the Easter Rising rebels in 1916. While the flag green-white-orange was first known in March 1848, it was not until 1917 that it had gained popularity. The modern flag was given constitutional status on December 29, 1937.
The tricolor gained the traction to be the symbol of Ireland during the 1916 Easter Rising. Before this, the primary flag that was thought to be used was green with a harp in the center, flown by Eoghan Ruadh Ó Néill. The green in the tricolor represents Irish nationalism; while the orange, Ireland’s Protestant minority and the Orange Order; then the white represents the lasting peace between the two.
Thomas Meagher, leader of Young Irelanders, was the first one to have flown the flag publicly, from the Wolfe Tone Club. He wished for a New Ireland where the Irish Catholics and the Protestants are united towards independence.
They were inspired by the 1848 revolutions in Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Rome, Prague, and Budapest; which established democratic republics. It was rarely used between 1848 and 1916, when it became the symbol of revolution.
Inspired by these revolutions, the Young Irelanders made a firm decision to overthrow British rule in Ireland, as peacefully as possible. In April 1848, a group of French women wove the Irish tricolor made from the finest French silk and presented it to Meagher, while he, William Smith O’Brien, and Richard O’ Gorman were in Paris to congratulate the French on overthrowing King Louis Philippe.
While presenting the same silk flag to the citizens of Ireland, back in Dublin on April 15, 1848, he said, “The white in the center signifies a lasting truce between the ‘orange’ and the ‘green’.”
Though Thomas was convicted for leading the Young Irelanders’ 1848 Rebellion, before his trial he addressed a huge crowd at Slievanamon in Co. Tipperary, stating that the tricolor would one day be seen by the future generations, proudly flown across Ireland.
It was later found out that two rebellions escaped to America to form the Fenian Brotherhood secret society, later leading to the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) in Ireland. Years later, the IRB was known to organize and lead the Easter Rising.
The IRB, Irish Volunteers, and the Irish Citizen Army flew the Irish tricolor from the top of the GPO in Dublin, on Easter of 1916. During the Irish War of Independence (1919-1921) the flag was used by the IRA (Irish Republican Army).
The Irish Free State (1922-1937) also used the flag after independence in 1922. It was later, in 1937, that the flag was included in the Constitution.
The green color has been associated globally with Ireland since the 1940s, however for centuries green was the color of the rebellion and was the unofficial color of Ireland. By the 18th century, the color green again became part of nationalism. As an attempt to make Irish Protestants feel included in the Irish Independence movement, the orange color was added which actually represents the Protestant minority in Ireland.
The symbolism of lasting peace between the two cultures i.e. nationalist, mainly Catholic Ireland, and unionist, mainly Protestant Ireland is white that is the middle of the flag.
There were many Irish Protestants that had been supporters of William of Orange, the Protestant Dutch prince who became King William III of Britain. Even today, the ‘Orangemen’ in the North celebrate the Protestant victory of William defeating Catholic King James II in 1690; with bonfires and parade on the 12th July.
Sometimes instead of Orange, Gold is seen – which should be immediately discouraged, said the Government. Ignoring or making the Protestants feel left out isn’t something that the Irish want.
The government takes care to replace the flags that have gold in them with the flags that have orange.
Wholly, the flag represents a hoped-for reconciliation between various religions and cultures in Ireland, which is also expressed in Article 2 of the Irish Constitution. It is the symbolism of the entitlement of every person that is born in Ireland and wishes to be part of independent Ireland, regardless the ethnic origin, religion, or political status.
“It is the entitlement and birthright of every person born in the island of Ireland, which includes its islands and seas, to be part of the Irish Nation. That is also the entitlement of all persons otherwise qualified in accordance with law to be citizens of Ireland.”