Today we celebrate the 170th birthday of the Irish tricolor flag. Recognized the world over, the famous green, white and gold boasts a history as tumultuous as Ireland itself.
A Symbol of Peace
The Irish tricolor flag was initially envisioned as a symbol of peace and co-operation between two opposing sides. The green represented the republicans, i.e. those who wanted to liberate Ireland from British rule. The gold/orange symbolized the “Orangemen” – supporters of the union with Britain (they took their name from King William of Orange). The white in between both colors marked the hope of establishing a lasting peace between the two opposing sides.
1848: The Irish Tricolor Makes its Début
The Tricolor as we know it today was flown for the very first time 170 years ago on March 7, 1848. It was a key act of the Young Irelander Rebellion – a revolt which took place at the Wolfe Tone Confederate Club in Waterford City. Inspired by the revolutionary wave that shook Europe over 1848, this rebellion sought to forge a new sovereign Irish state in which the two opposing sides would live together in harmony. The flag bearer was Thomas Francis Meagher – a leader of the Young Irelander movement – who later said of the tricolor:
“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
Meagher was eventually found guilty of treason and was sent to the prison colony of Australia. From here, he escaped to the United States where he fought for the Union in the Civil War. He was then made the governor of what is now Montana. Today, Meagher’s legacy lives on in the form of the Thomas F. Meagher Foundation – an organisation committed to promoting “pride in and respect for the Irish flag and its meaning for peace.
Green, White & Gold at Blarney