Flag of Ireland: Brief Facts and Symbolism of the Irish Flag

The flag of Ireland represents its history, symbols, and tradition.

But do you know what these meanings are? To understand a little more about Irish culture, nothing better than learning about the greatest symbol of any country, its flag.

Just as many other Irish symbols, the Ireland flag has a rich meaning and represents peace, above all.

So today’s article will be about the Irish flag, its weight in the history of the country, and the most important symbols of Ireland.

From Dublin to the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland is filled with legends, tales, and castles worth discovering.

What is the flag of Ireland like?

The Irish flag is a rectangular shape with three vertical stripes of the same size. Green, white, and orange. In that exact order.

These three colors form the tricolor flag of Ireland.

Flag of Ireland
Flag of Ireland

Ireland flag: The story behind the flag

Thomas Francis Meagher, an Irish nationalist, went to France in 1948 to study the revolutionary events in the country.

And as a gift, French women, who sympathized with the Irish cause, gave him the Irish tricolor.

However, the flag was only officially presented to the public in 1916.

And although at that time, some considered the tricolor flag to be the country’s official one, it was not until 1919, during the war of independence, that the flag began to be recognized as the official flag of Ireland.

Finally, in 1937, the tricolor Irish flag was formally confirmed by the new Constitution of Ireland.

Meaning of Irish flag’s colors

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.

Thomas Francis Meagher, on presenting the flag to the people of Dublin in April 1848

The green

The first color on the Irish flag symbolizes many things, such as the struggle for the country’s independence, republicanism, Gaelic tradition, and even the Catholic part from the country.

But the most accepted meaning is that the green of the Irish flag symbolizes the Roman Catholics of the country.

The white

In the middle of the flag, the white is the aspiration for peace and hope for union between the Catholics and Protestants in Ireland.

Flag of Ireland and hand with peace sign
The flag of Ireland symbolizes peace

The orange

The last color of the Irish flag represents the minority Protestants who were supporters of William of Orange.

William was a Dutch prince by birth and the King of England, Ireland, and Scotland by marriage in the late 17th-century. He defeated King James II and his predominantly Irish Catholic army.

Ireland flag: Exact colors

Scheme Green White Orange
CMYK 92-0-97-0 0-0-0-0 0-54-100-0
Hex triplet #009A44 #FFFFFF #FF8200
Pantone 347C white 151C
RGB 0-154-68 255-255-255 255-130-0

Fun facts about the flag of Ireland

Twin flags?

An interesting fun fact about Ireland, or better put, about the Irish flag is that it has the same colors as the Ivory Coast flag, but with one little detail: the order is inverted.

The Ivory Coast flag is, from left to right, orange, white, and green.

So beware of the color order not to pay takedowns when posting a photo with the Irish flag emoji on subtitle.

The first flag of Ireland

Before the tricolor flag, Ireland had a green unofficial flag that featured a golden harp in the middle.

That flag had been used since the early 17th-century, and even after the tricolor flag was considered the official one, the harp remained one of Ireland’s symbols.

However, the first official flag of Ireland, before independence, was the flag of the United Kingdom as we know today, the so-called Union flag.

It combines the red cross of St George for the Kingdom of England, the white saltire of St Andrew for Scotland, and the red saltire of St Patrick to represent Ireland.

Union flag

Even after Ireland’s independence, the flag of the United Kingdom was not modified. It remains to feature St Patrick’s flag.

Flags of the four Irish provinces

Although there are not many national flags in Irish history, there are some other flags that represent the provinces that divide the country.

The territory of Ireland, Northern Ireland included, is divided into four provinces, and each one of those provinces has a flag that represents them.

The flags are:

Flags of four provinces of Ireland
Flags of four provinces of Ireland

Leinster flag

The flag of Leinster is simple but beautiful and powerful. It features a golden harp on a green background.

As said, the hard remains an Irish symbol to this day.

Ulster flag

The traditional flag of Ulster served as a base for the Ulster banner used by the Government of Northern Ireland until 1973.

This traditional flag features a red cross over a yellow background with the white shield presenting the Red Hand of Ulster in the center.

Connacht flag

Connacht flag is divided in half from top to bottom and features an eagle and armed hand.

The black eagle is on a white background, while the warrior’s arm holding a sword is on a blue background.

Munster flag

The flag of Munster features three golden crowns, two on top and one in the bottom, on a blue background.

The most accepted version is that the crowns represent Thomond, Desmond, and Ormond, regions in Ireland.

Ireland symbols

Besides the Irish flag, there are many symbols that represent parts of the Irish culture.

We’ll talk about the most important Irish symbols below.

The shamrock

The shamrock became known as an Irish symbol after St Patrick (patron saint of Ireland) used it as a metaphor for the Christian Holy Trinity.

In this case, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, each one being represented by one leaf.

Today, the shamrock is used in the emblems of many state organizations, such as the Tourism Ireland office and the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Shamrock: Irish symbols
Not quite the Irish Shamrock: these ones have four leaves, instead of three

The Irish Harp

The Irish harp is one of the most important symbols of the Celtic culture.

Stamped on the Irish passport, government logos, currency (euro), Leinster flag, and even on the Guinness and Ryanair logos, the harp is a national symbol of Ireland.

No one knows for sure when this symbol emerged. But legend has it that the Irish king Brian Boru was a skilled player of this instrument.

Other legend says it that the harp was the only instrument played during the Crusades.

Either way, the Gaelic harp has always been a symbol of the Irish resistance to the Crown and England. And that’s the reason why it was banned at the end of the medieval period.

But the harp was still the flag adopted by many during the 17th-century until the independence of the country.

Today, the harp is the official national emblem of the Republic of Ireland.

Fun fact about the Irish harp

Guinness beer is the true holder of the image rights of Brian Boru’s harp, facing right.

That’s the reason the Irish government was forced to mirror the harp image (face left) on passports and any other places they might use this symbol.

Claddagh ring

The Claddagh Ring is a popular souvenir and traditional Irish symbol that represents true love, loyalty, and friendship.

The story of this ring arose in the fishing village of Claddagh (near Galway) in the 17th-century.

You can find this ring in any jewelry store in Ireland, but before wearing it know it has different meanings depending on how you wear it.

  • On the right hand with the crown facing toward your fingertips: you’re single and looking for love.
  • On the right hand with the crown facing toward your wrist: you’re in a relationship.
  • On the left hand with the crown facing toward your fingertips: you’re engaged.
  • On the left hand with the crown facing toward your wrist: you’re married.
Irish Claddagh Rings on purple leaves
Claddagh Rings

Celtic cross

This is a symbol that characterizes the Celts and is one of the main artistic symbols of the Celtic culture.

It is popularly believed that St. Patrick introduced the Celtic Cross in Ireland, during his conversion of the kings from paganism to Christianity.

This symbol is commonly seen in cemeteries across Ireland and Scotland.

Leprechaun

The leprechaun is a mythical creature that is one of the biggest symbols of the Irish folklore.

Legend has it that the leprechaun is a magical creature that has a hidden pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

If captured by a human, they often grant three wishes in exchange for their freedom. Better not let him escape.

But beware, if you find one while you are in Ireland know the leprechaun is a trickster figure who cannot be trusted.

Final words on the flag of Ireland

As said, the Irish culture is rich in many aspects and we presented a small part of its major symbology, including the Ireland flag.

Now that you know all about the Irish flag and even the symbols that represent the Irish culture, find out more about this “magic land” with our articles about Ireland.

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