Flag of Ireland
Name: Bratach na hÉireann
Use: National flag and ensign
Adopted: 1922 (constitutional status; 1937)
Design: A vertical tricolour of green, white and orange
The national flag of Ireland (Irish: bratach na hÉireann) – frequently referred to as the Irish tricolour (trídhathach na hÉireann) – is the national flag and ensign of the Republic of Ireland. The flag itself is a vertical tricolour of green (at the hoist), white and orange. The proportions of the flag are 1:2 (that is to say, flown horizontally, the flag is half as high as it is wide).
Presented as a gift in 1848 to Thomas Francis Meagher from a small group of French women sympathetic to the Irish cause, it was intended to symbolise the inclusion and hoped-for union between Roman Catholics and Protestants, the significance of the colours outlined by Meagher was, “The white in the centre signifies a lasting truce between Orange and Green and I trust that beneath its folds the hands of Irish Protestants and Irish Catholics may be clasped in generous and heroic brotherhood.”
It was not until the Easter Rising of 1916, when it was raised above Dublin's General Post Office by Gearóid O'Sullivan, that the tricolour came to be regarded as the national flag. The flag was adopted by the Irish Republic during the Irish War of Independence (1919–1921). The flag's use was continued by the Irish Free State (1922–1937) and it was later given constitutional status under the 1937 Constitution of Ireland. The tricolour is used by nationalists on both sides of the border as the national flag of the whole island of Ireland since 1916. Thus it is flown by many nationalists in Northern Ireland as well as by the Gaelic Athletic Association.
Design and symbolism
In relation to the national flag of Ireland, the Constitution of Ireland simply states in Article 7:
The national flag is the tricolour of green, white and orange.
As there are no further statutory requirements in relation to the flag, the Department of the Taoiseach takes general responsibility for matters relating to the flag. In its advisory role, the department has issued guidelines to assist persons in their use of the national flag. The flag should be rectangular in shape and its length should be two times its width, translating into an aspect ratio of 1:2. The three coloured pales — green, white and orange — should be of equal size, and vertically disposed.
The flag should normally be displayed on a flagstaff, with the green pale positioned next to the flagstaff, at the hoist. Provided that the correct proportions are observed, the flag may be made to any convenient size.
The green pale of the flag symbolises Roman Catholics, the orange represents the minority Protestants who were supporters of William of Orange, who had defeated King James II and his predominantly Irish Catholic army at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. His title came from the Principality of Orange in the south of France that had been a Protestant bastion from the 16th century. It was included in the Irish flag in an attempt to reconcile the Orange Order in Ireland with the Irish independence movement. The white in the centre signifies a lasting peace and hope for union between Protestants and Catholics in Ireland. The flag, as a whole, is intended to symbolise the inclusion and hoped-for union of the people of different traditions on the island of Ireland, which is expressed in the Constitution as the entitlement of every person born in Ireland to be part of the independent Irish nation, regardless of ethnic origin, religion or political conviction. There are exceptions to the general beneficent theory. Green was also used as the colour of such Irish bodies as the mainly-Protestant and non-sectarian Friendly Brothers of St. Patrick, established in 1751.
Occasionally, differing shades of yellow, instead of orange, are seen at civilian functions. However the Department of the Taoiseach state that this is a misrepresentation which "should be actively discouraged", and that worn-out flags should be replaced. In songs and poems, the colours are sometimes enumerated as "green, white and gold", using poetic licence. Variants of different guises are utilised to include, for example, various emblems of Ireland, such as the presidential harp, the four provinces or county arms.
Satellite image, October 2010
Ireland (dark green)
in Europe (green & dark grey)
|Adjacent bodies of water||Atlantic Ocean|
|Area||84,421 km2 (32,595 sq mi)|
|Coastline||2,797 km (1,738 mi)|
|Highest elevation||1,041 m (3,415 ft)|
Republic of Ireland
|Largest city||Dublin (pop. 553,165)|
|Largest city||Belfast (pop. 333,000)|
|Pop. density||77.8 /km2 (201.5 /sq mi)|
|Languages||English, Irish, Ulster Scots|
|• Summer (DST)||
|Patron saints||Saint Brigit