Ireland List Irish Flags Page

The Ireland List Irish Flags Page


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The Irish National Anthem

What Is the Symbolism
of the Irish Flag?

The national flag is the tricolour of green, white and orange.

The flag is divided into three equal stripes and its width is equal to twice its height. It is used as the civil and state flag and as the civil and naval ensign.


GREEN - The green stripe represents those of native Irish descent. It also signifies Irish Catholics & the Republican cause.

WHITE - represents the hope for peace between the two groups.

ORANGE - The orange stripe represents the descendants of 17th-century British colonists (a group which supported William of orange Orange in the War of the Two Kings, 1689-91). It also represents the Protestants in North Ireland.

History of the Flag
The stripes were found in a different order
in the early (pre-independence) days.

The oldest known reference to the use of the three colours (green, white and orange) as a nationalist emblem dates from September 1830 when tricolour cockades were worn at a meeting held to celebrate the French revolution of that year - a revolution which restored the use of the French tricolour. The colours were also used in the same period for rosettes and badges, and on the banners of trade guilds. There is also one reference to the use of a flag 'striped with orange and green alternately'. However, the earliest attested use of a tricolour flag was in 1848 when it was adopted by the Young Ireland movement under the influence of another French revolution. Speeches made at that time by the Young Ireland leader Thomas Francis Meagher suggest that it was regarded as an innovation and not as the revival of an older flag.

Vincent Morley, 8 January 1997

The Irish television channel RTÉ 1 included the following flag-related item on its main news programme last night.

A historian named Dermot Power has established that the tricolour was publicly unveiled by Thomas Francis Meagher, a leader of the Young Ireland movement, at a meeting in his native city of Waterford on 7 March 1848 - exactly 150 years ago today. The report showed the large second-floor window from which he addressed a crowd in the street below and at which the flag was displayed.

This discovery pushes back the history of the flag by five weeks: it had previously been thought that it was first displayed by Meagher at a meeting held in Dublin on 15 April 1848. More importantly, the television report stated that Meagher informed the Waterford meeting that the flag was being shown for the first time. No such claim was made at the later Dublin meeting, an omission which had led to speculation that the flag might have been in use for some time before 1848. This possibility now appears to have been excluded.

Vincent Morley, 9 March 1998


The Provinces of Ireland

Administrative Divisions in Ireland

by James G. Ryan, Ph.D.

Editor's Note: The following is excerpted from Irish Records: Sources for Family & Local History by James G. Ryan, Ph.D.

An ancestor's address is a basic element of identity and can be an essential step in obtaining further information. To understand the components of the types of "addresses" commonly cited, it is necessary to know about the administrative areas used.

Many different administrative boundaries were used in Ireland for civil and ecclesiastical purposes. In most cases these divisions observe boundaries set up for other purposes, e.g., county boundaries, but others such as diocese boundaries, tend to be unique. A short description of the different divisions is given below. A more detailed description is given by Dr. W. Nolan in Irish Genealogy-A Record Finder (Dublin: Heraldic Artists, 1981).

Civil Divisions The civil divisions are described below starting from the smallest unit of land.

Townland. This is the smallest unit of land area used in Ireland. The area varies in size from less than ten acres to several thousand acres. Despite their name, these units do no contain towns, indeed some have no occupants at all. There are around 64,000 townlands in Ireland, and they are the most specific "address" usually available for rural dwellers. They are generally organized into civil parishes.

Civil parishes. These are important units for record purposes. They generally contain around twenty-five to thirty townlands as well as towns and villages. There are around 2,500 civil parishes in the country. The guides to church records list the parishes in each county, and they are also shown in the accompanying maps. Parishes are generally listed within each county although they may be divided by barony. In many cases civil parishes straddle county and barony boundaries.

Barony. A barony is a portion of a county of a group of civil parishes. Historically it was introduced by the Anglo-Normans and is usually based on a tribal territory or "tuatha." Barony boundaries do not always conform to those of the civil parishes within them. There are 273 baronies in Ireland.

County. The county is a major and consistent division. The counties were gradually established by the English since the arrival of the Normans. The first counties-Dublin, Kildare, and Louth-were established in the early thirteenth century, whereas the last counties, those of Ulster, were not established until after 1600. There are thirty-two counties, and these are formed into four provinces.

Province. The four provinces of Ireland are Connaught, Leinster, Munster, and Ulster. Each comprises a number of counties.

Cities, Towns, and Boroughs. These are separate administrative areas of varying size. Many towns have several civil parishes, whereas some civil parishes have several townships. Other types of classifications of urban areas include the borough, which is a town which sent a representative (i.e., MP) to the Westminster Parliament. A ward is an administrative unit within a city or large town.

Poor Law Unions. These areas were set up under the Poor Law Relief Act (1838). Rates, land-based taxes, were collected within these areas for maintenance of local poor. They were named after a local large town. The same districts later became used as General Registrar's Districts.

General Registrar's Districts. These districts are the areas within which births, deaths, and marriages were collected. The areas do not always conform to county boundaries.

The Colors of Ireland
This flag quarters the arms of the four provinces. As the flag is unofficial, the order in which the provinces appear can vary. Although all of the provincial arms have been in use since the 17th century, it was only in the 19th century that they were given official recognition.
The origin of the two elements displayed on the arms and flag of Connacht is obscure, but it is likely that the arm and sword derive from the arms of the O'Connors, the ruling family in the province before the Norman invasion, and that the black eagle derives from the arms of the Browns, one of the 'tribes' of Galway city. If this derivation is correct, the flag would be a symbol of the 17th-century unity of Gaels and Old English.
The Green Flag was the unofficial national flag from 1798 until the early years of the 20th century. A gold harp on a blue field (see the Presidential Standard) was the arms of Ireland since the 16th century, but the United Irishmen changed the colour of the field from blue to green - the colour that symbolised revolution in the late 18th century. Leaves, branches and 'liberty' trees were frequently employed as republican emblems at the time

The historic national flag continues to be used as a national emblem by the public. The Green Flag is also the Naval Service jack and is being worn by a naval vessel in the pictures in the second row above.

The Green Flag was widely carried during the rebellion of 1798 - often with the motto of the United Irishmen, 'Éire go brách' ('Ireland forever'), below the harp. The poet Mícheál Óg Ó Longáin, a United Irishman, wrote as follows in that year:

The Green Flag quickly won popular acceptance as the national flag of Ireland. It was used by the followers of Daniel O'Connell, by the Fenians (for the most part), and by the supporters of Home Rule from the time of Parnell until the collapse of the Irish Parliamentary Party in 1918. Popular rejection of the flag at that point can be partly attributed to its use by the British army in recruitment campaigns during the First World>

The flag of Leinster is indistinguishable from the Green Flag, but the arms of the province (of which the flag is a banner) date from the 17th century or earlier.
Three gold crowns on a blue field were the arms of Ireland before the adoption of the harp in the 16th century. The symbolism of the crowns on the Munster flag is not certain, but one possibility is that they may represent the three most important medieval lordships in the province - viz. those of the O'Briens (Thomond), of the Butlers (Ormond) and of the Fitzgeralds (Desmond).
The Presidential Standard is a gold harp on a blue ground, adopted as the official emblem of the Irish Free State in 1922. The design is based on the so-called 'Brian Boru harp', a harp (which post-dates the early Irish king Brian Bóruma) kept at Trinity College, Dublin. It was the banner of the arms of Ireland from the reign of Henry VIII, although the United Irishmen changed the colour of the field to green as a symbol of revolution against the English government in the Rebellion of 1798, when it became known as the 'Green Flag'.
In 1913 police attacked striking workers who were demonstrating in Dublin, killing two. Trade union leaders decided to establish a para-military organisation - the 'Irish Citizen Army' - to protect the workers. Although the ICA was initially armed only with batons it soon acquired firearms and munitions.

The Starry Plough was adopted as the army's flag in 1914: the plough and the stars symbolising the present and the future of the working class respectively. The ICA participated in the 1916 rising at which time the British army captured the flag. It was returned to Ireland in 1966 and is now preserved in the National Museum of Ireland.

The Irish parliament secured legislative independence in 1782 and a year later it was decided to establish a new order of chivalry called the Order of St Patrick in recognition of Ireland's enhanced constitutional status. A red saltire on a white background was used in the badge of the Order and this design became known as the 'Cross of St Patrick'.
The Sunburst flag has a literary origin, being described in the Fiannaíocht - the lays and narrative tales about Fionn mac Cumhail and the Fianna that were composed between the 14th and 18th centuries. The flag of the Fianna is called the Gal Gréine or the Scal Ghréine in the literature

The Sunburst was used by nationalists from the first half of the nineteenth century although the Green Flag remained much more important throughout the period. One author writing in 1843 anticipated that both of these flags would be used after independence was achieved

The Ulster flag combines the emblem of the O'Neills of Tyrone (the red hand) with that of the de Burgos (a red cross on a gold field) - the house to which the earldom of Ulster belonged until 1333 when the last de Burgo earl died.
The flag was introduced in 1953 but is a banner of arms which had been used by the Northern Ireland government since 1925. The arms of Northern Ireland were based on those of Ulster but the yellow field was changed to white, giving a design identical to the St George's Cross - the historical flag of England. The red hand of the O'Neills appears on a six-pointed star, representing the six counties which comprise Northern Ireland, and the crown emphasises the region's status as part of the United Kingdom.

The flag was introduced in 1953 but is a banner of arms which had been used by the Northern Ireland government since 1925. The arms of Northern Ireland were based on those of Ulster but the yellow field was changed to white, giving a design identical to the St George's Cross - the historical flag of England. The red hand of the O'Neills appears on a six-pointed star, representing the six counties which comprise Northern Ireland, and the crown emphasises the region's status as part of the United Kingdom.

This flag was first used by the Williamite forces during the siege of Derry (1688-9). It is currently used by the Apprentice Boys of Derry.
Another flag used exclusively by the unionist community is that of the Orange Order. It is usually carried with the Union Jack at the head of Orange parades. The flag is reputed to be based on Williamite colours which were carried at the battle of the Boyne (1690).
For some years past the Ulster Independence Movement (UIM) has used a flag that combines the crosses of St Patrick and St Andrew (for Scotland), together with the central badge from the formerly official flag of Northern Ireland. The flag is now in use among many loyalists apart from the members of the UIM, which remains a very minor group.

County Colours

Keys to using this Map


The map being used is one downloaded with a bunch of others tried for this prupose. It is thought to be one of the maps in the Public Domain that we picked up.

If this map is copyrighted, and it is yours, please notify us so that proper credit can be given. Please note: All claims of ownership will be checked out to insure the correct person gets the credit.

Instructions and Notes

First the notes. :) The above is an Image Map created for use with this site. It is a standard image with a Jave Script which sections off areas of the image as links to other pages on this site.

This is a test run to see if this type of link works well with the members of this site. If it does work out, then other Image Maps may be implemented in the future.

In order to get to the county page, just place your mouse cursor over the name of the County and look for the mouse cursor to change into a hand. Then just click.

Flag Information:

Thanks goes to the following sites for the Valuable Information and Images of the Flags that are used on this Page.


Flags of Ireland


Irish Flags Home Page

A Very Special Thanks goes out to George and his Irish Heritage email newsletter for another great addition to the Irish County Series. Thank you George! To contact George for more info on the Irish Heritage newsletter, send an email to

[email protected]

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