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The History of the Irish Flag – Bratach na hÉireann

Bratach na hÉireann (The Irish Flag)

Commonly referred to as the Irish Tricolor, the National Flag of Ireland is a vertical tricolor of green, white and orange. Proportionally, the flag is laid out at a 1:2 ratio, being twice as long as it is high. The flag was first flown publicly on March 7, 1848 during the Young Irelander Rebellion at the Wolfe Tone Confederate Club in Waterford City. A leader of the Young Irelander movement named Thomas Francis Meagher was the first to fly the flag. Meagher would later become a Brigadier General in the American Civil War fighting for the Union Army. Later Meager would become Governor of Montana. When Meagher first flew the Irish Flag in 1848, it touched the skies for eight days and night until the British finally brought it down.


Having been inspired by the rebellion in France that overthrew King Louis Philippe I, Meagher and a band of Young Irelanders embarked to France to congratulate the French rebels and returned with an Irish Flag of French silk. When he returned to Ireland, Meagher explained: “The white in the center 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.” In this way, the Green symbolizes the Irish Nationalism or the Gaelic tradition while the Orange represented the “Orange Order” the supporters of William of Orange or the Protestant minority of the island as a whole. The White, the hope of a lasting peace between the two.


Despite the flag’s early appearance in Waterford, it was not until the Easter Rebellion of 1916 that the tricolor became seen as the official national flag, when it was raised above the general post office in Dublin at the height of the Eater Rising. After being adopted by the rebels of the Easter Rising, the Irish Republic in turn adopted the the Tricolor as its flag during the War of Independence from 1919-1921. A tradition that was then continued by the Irish Free State that was given birth at the end of the War of Independence. The flag was officially adopted by the Irish Free State in 1922. Later the flag was granted “Constitutional Status” in 1937 with the ratification of the Constitution of Ireland.

In Ireland today, the Department of the Taoiseach (“the head of government” or Prime Minister of Ireland) oversees matters concerning the flag. Precise colors are set by the Department of the Taoiseach at Green RGB: 22/155/98, White RGB: 255/255/255, Orange RGB: 255/136/62. The flag should be displayed on a proper flagstaff with the Green pale closest to the flagstaff, the White in the center and the Orange “at the fly” or farthest from the flagstaff.


A previous version of the Irish Flag (shown here) was originally used in 1642 by Owen Rose O’Neill, a mercenary soldier from the O’Neill clan of Ulster. This earliest flag featured a Harp in the center. While no longer a part of the flag, the Harp does remain the National Symbol of Ireland, making it the only country in the world to have a musical instrument as its national symbol.

You can find the Irish Flag on Elmer’s store here: Flag of Ireland