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National Flag PDF Print E-mail

We owe our flag to the French revolution and to the visit to France in 1848 by Thomas Francis Meagher.  The fort on Rams Head in Crosshaven is named after Thomas Francis Meagher.


Article 7
The national flag is the tricolour of green, white and orange.
Article 8
1. The Irish language as the national language is the first official language.
2. The English language is recognised as a second official language.

An Bhratach Náisiúnta (The National Flag)  -   History:

The Irish Tricolour is intended to symbolise the inclusion and hoped-for union of the people of different traditions on this island, which is now expressed in the Constitution as the entitlement of every person born in Ireland to be part of the Irish nation (regardless of ethnic origin, religion or political conviction).  A green flag with harp was an older symbol of the nation, going back at least to Confederate Ireland and Owen Roe O’Neill in the 1640s, and was subsequently widely adopted by the Irish Volunteers and especially the United Irishmen

A rival organisation, the Orange Order, whose main strength was in the North, and which was exclusively Protestant, was founded in 1795 in memory of King William of Orange and the ‘glorious revolution’ of 1689. Following the 1798 Rebellion which pitted orange against green, the ideal of a later Nationalist generation in the mid-nineteenth century was to make peace between them and, if possible, to found a self-governing Ireland on such peace and union.

Irish tricolours were mentioned in 1830 and 1844, but wide- spread recognition was not accorded the flag until 1848. From March of that year Irish tricolours appeared side by side with French ones at meetings held all over the country to celebrate the revolution that had just taken place in France. In April, Thomas Francis Meagher, the Young Ireland leader, brought a tricolour of orange, white and green from Paris and presented it to a Dublin meeting. John Mitchel, referring to it, said: ‘I hope to see that flag one day waving, as our national banner’.

Although the tricolour was not forgotten as a symbol of hoped-for union and a banner associated with the Young Irelanders and revolution, it was little used between 1848 and 1916. Even up to the eve of the Rising in 1916, the green flag held undisputed sway.  Neither the colours nor the arrangement of these early tri- colours were standardised. All of the 1848 tricolours showed green, white and orange, but orange was sometimes put next to the staff, and in at least one flag the order was orange, green and white. In 1850 a flag of green for the Catholics, orange for the Protestants of the Established Church and blue for the Presbyterians was proposed. In 1883 a Parnellite tricolour of yellow, white and green, arranged horizontally, is recorded.  Down to modern times yellow has occasionally been used instead of orange, but by this substitution the fundamental symbolism is destroyed.

Associated with separatism in the past, flown during the Rising of 1916 and capturing the national imagination as the banner of the new revolutionary Ireland, the tricolour came to be acclaimed throughout the country as the National Flag. It continued to be used officially during the period 1922- 1937, and in the latter year its position as the National Flag was formally confirmed by the new Constitution, Article 7 of which states: ‘The national flag is the tricolour of green, white and orange’.


NOTE:  The Green Flag is still used by the Irish Navy as the Naval Jack


The Naval Jack, which is worn whenever the Naval Ensign is worn except when a ship is underway. It consists of a green flag with a embroidered yellow harp and silver strings. Also known as the Arms of Ireland, this flag was the unofficial national flag of Ireland from 1798 until the early 20th century.

A gold harp on a blue field had been the arms of Ireland since the 16th century, but the United Irishmen changed the colour of the field from blue to green - a colour which symbolised revolution in the late 18th century. It is flown in addition to the Naval Ensign, by Naval Ships at the Jack staff when at anchor, moored, alongside or when under way and dressed with Masthead Ensigns. It is hoisted and half masted at the same time and in like manner as the Naval Ensign.  The Naval Ensign is the National Flag.

The Naval Service Colour is a double-sided square banner. The primary colour is navy blue on both sides. The obverse side carries the Defence Forces badge at the centre superimposed over a pair of crossed silver foul anchors. The reverse side bears a Gold harp with silver strings enclosed in a gold grommet or continuous rope ring. Below the grommet are the words 'An tSeirbhis Chabhlaigh'. The colour is bordered by a 50mm wide gold fringe.

Apart from the Naval Service Colour, each individual ships carries a pennant, which is a smaller navy blue flag, also square and fringed. the obverse side shows the ships coat of arms, while the reverse bears a foul anchor in gold. The pennant would be worn by the ships company on ceremonial parades and displayed near the gangway on important occasions.

It has also been stated that it not usual for Navies to have colours. Very many have a distinctive national ensign, and this serves as its colour as it differs from the national flag. However, countries that do not have a naval ensign usually have a naval colour and it is into this category that the Naval Service Colour falls. It is usually the practice that colours are presented to a unit by some national figure, often the head of state, who touches the colour during the ceremony. This tradition goes back to the Romans, when the Emperor would presented the eagles to his legions.

When colours become old and decrepit, they are never destroyed but are laid up and displayed in the garrison church and a new colour is presented. This may be identical with the old one or a new design may be chosen.

In Ireland, colours are governed by Defence Force Regulations that lays down which formations may have colours and the broad rules as to their design and use. The Naval Service colour was presented to the Navy on 12 July 1996 by her Excellency, President Mary Robinson.

Army Command Structure:





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