Probably no flag in the world has inspired more loyalty and generated more antagonism than the Irish Tricolor, the national flag of the Republic of Ireland. Its three equal stripes illustrate the Irish political dream as accurately today as in 1848, the year the flag was first unfurled:
* green — signifying Irish Catholics and the republican cause
* white — representing the hope for peace between two factions
* orange — standing for Irish Protestants
In recent years, the orange has frequently been changed from the original to a “gold” designation ----- an effort by some to remove any hint of the validity of Protestantism in Eire.
The color orange has long been associated with Northern Irish/Scots Protestants because of William of Orange (William III), the King of England, Scotland, and Ireland who, in 1690 defeated the deposed King James II, a Roman Catholic, in the fateful Battle of the Boyne near Dublin. In spite of much debate to the contrary, many Catholics fought valiantly on William's side even as his victory secured Protestant dominance over the island. However of their faithful display, much of the enormous benefit of the victory went to the 17th-century colonizers of northern Ireland — the English (mainly Anglicans) and Scots (mostly Presbyterians). Sometimes called Orangemen, Protestants in Northern Ireland celebrate the anniversary of the battle each July 12th.
Green as the color representation for the Irish Catholic nationalists of the south may have something to do with shamrocks and verdant landscapes, but more importantly, at that time many of the peasanty regarded green as a symbol of revolution. An earlier, unofficial Irish flag —the gold harp on a green background— served from 1798 until the early twentieth century as a symbol of nationalism. As the revolutionary James Connolly wrote, just weeks before he participated in the disastrous Easter Rebellion (1916) that led to his execution:
“For centuries the green flag of Ireland was a thing accursed and hated by the English garrison in Ireland, as it is still in their inmost hearts...
...the green flag of Ireland will be solemnly hoisted over Liberty Hall as a symbol of our faith in freedom, and as a token to all the world that the working class of Dublin stands for the cause of Ireland, and the cause of Ireland is the cause of a separate and distinct nationality
Although it was not adopted as the national flag of Ireland until independence from Britain on December 6, 1921, the Tricolor was first unfurled in public on March 7, 1848, by the militant nationalist Thomas Francis Meagher, (the stripes, however, were arranged differently at that time). Explaining the significance of the Tricolor, Meagher expressed a hope for his country that is sadly still unrealized today:
“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.”
Perhaps if there was less politicising in the province, more statesmanlike concern for the future of the people and less of the ubiquitous misuse of religion for personal gain, Ireland may one day see all of her sons and daughters unite under a common flag for a common good, whatever that may be. At the moment it would seem that none of us can divulge what the common good is.