The official national flag of Ireland is the green, white and orange tricolour.
However, this wasn’t always the case. In fact, the Irish tricolour only became the flag of Ireland in 1937.
Inspired by the French tricolour, the colours represent the Catholics (green) and the Protestants (Orange) with the white… well, you’ll discover what that symbolises below.
Some quick need-to-knows about the Irish flag
If you’re simply looking for the Ireland flag meaning, the image above will tell you. However, the points below will give you the ins and outs of what the flag of Ireland is all about:
1. The colours and their meaning
Known as the ‘Tricolour’, the colours of the national flag of Ireland are green, white and orange. The green symbolises the Catholics, the orange symbolises the Protestants and the white signifies the hope for peace and unity between the two.
2. Why Ireland has two flags
The official Irish flag for the Republic of Ireland is the tricolour. The official flag of Northern Ireland, as it is part of the UK, is the Union Jack. However, many in Northern Ireland use the Ulster Banner (a white flag with a red cross and a hand in the centre).
3. Flags very similar to it
The Ivory Coast flag is the most similar to the Irish tricolour – it is orange, white and green and the two are very frequently mistaken for eachother.
The history of the Irish flag
In order to explain the true meaning of the Irish flag, we need to start right from the beginning with where it all began.
Below, you’ll find a brief, to-the-point history of the Irish flag, from its early days to its transformation into one of the most notable symbols of Ireland.
The original Irish flag
The association between the colour green and Ireland can be traced back to the 1640s.
In 1642, Eoghan Ruadh Ó Néill from the the O’Neill dynasty of Ulster used a green flag with a harp on it, similar to the one in the image above.
Around the same time, the Irish Catholic Confederation also used a green flag with a harp on it. The colour green was closely associated with nationalism and rebellion.
The tricolour started with the French
In the 1790s, the Society of United Irishmen was established. Their goal? To achieve complete independence from the British Empire.
They were inspired by the French Revolution and they used a flag, like the one in the photo above, with a harp set against green.
The first reference to the tricolour of green, white and orange was in September 1830 – they were used in a knot of ribbons at a meeting where the French revolution was celebrated.
Its origin in Ireland
The new Irish flag didn’t get real recognition until 1848 when, during a Young Ireland meeting, Thomas Francis Meagher flew the tricolour from the window of the Wolfe Tone Club in Waterford City.
There was a crowd gathered in the street below to celebrate a revolution that took place in France and this new green, white and orange flag was inspired by the French tricolour.
From that point, this unofficial Ireland flag appeared at Young Ireland meetings held across the island.
It fell out of favour until 1916
The Irish tricolour wasn’t used a whole lot between 1848 and 1916, with the green flag with the hard emblazoned on it holding prominence.
It wasn’t until the Easter Rising of 1916 that the Irish tricolour gained in popularity. As it was associated with separatism from its days with the Young Irelanders, it was used as a flag to represent the ‘new’ Ireland.
A few years after the Easter Rising, in 1922, the Irish Free State was established. The Free State’s executive council adopted the use of the Irish tricolour.
It wasn’t until 1937 the the tricolour was officially crowned the official Ireland flag by the new Constitution of Ireland.
The flag of Northern Ireland
So, there are many differences between Ireland and Northern Ireland, and one of those differences is that there are two different flags.
The Union Jack is the official flag of the UK government and it can be seen flying on government buildings around Northern Ireland.
The Ulster Banner
The Ulster Banner (the white flag with the red hand in the middle in the graphic above) was used between 1953 and 1972 in Northern Ireland.
However, when the government was dissolved, so did the use of this flag in a official capacity. It is still used by many today.
The tricolour in Northern Ireland
The official Irish flag is used by the many nationalists that live in the 6 counties of Northern Ireland.
It’s worth noting that the tricolour has never been flown in a official capacity in Northern Ireland.
FAQs about the flag of Ireland
We’ve popped in some of the most FAQs that we receive about everything from the history of the Irish flag to facts and more below.
If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, feel free to ask away in the comments section below.
What is the meaning of the Irish flag?
The Ireland flag meaning is intertwined in its colours. The green symbolises the Catholics, the orange symbolises the Protestants and the white signifies the hope for peace and unity between the two.
What are the Irish flag colours?
The official Ireland flag is green, white and orange. It is sometimes mistaken for the Ivory Coast flag, which is orange, white and green.
Does Ireland have two flags?
The Republic of Ireland has a national flag (the tricolour) and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, has the Union Jack. You will also see the Ulster Banner used frequently in Northern Ireland.
Keith O’Hara has lived in Ireland for 34 years and has spent most of the last 10 years creating what is now The Irish Road Trip guide. Over the years, the website has published thousands of meticulously researched Ireland travel guides, welcoming 30 million+ visitors along the way. In 2022, the Irish Road Trip team published the world’s largest collection of Irish Road Trip itineraries. Keith lives in Dublin with his dog Toby and finds writing in the 3rd person minus craic altogether.