The national flag or Ireland is the ‘tricolor’ style with the three colors green, white, and orange in vertical stripes. According to this PDF released by the Irish government, the three colors “is intended to symbolise the inclusion and hoped-for union of the people of different traditions on this island.” This semi-vague statement in the PDF is clarified by the website itself, stating that the green represents the older Gaelic tradition (mostly Catholics) while the orange represents the William of Orange supporters, or those who prefer allegiance to Britain (mainly Protestants).
The original flag of Ireland had a green background with a golden harp in the center of it. Long has the harp been a symbol of Ireland and this original flag design dates back to the 1640s. Disputes in Irish history led to the formation of the Orange Order in northern Ireland in 1795 who created their own flag, known as the Boyne standard. The flag consists of an orange background, St. George’s Cross in the upper right corner, and the purple star of the Williamite forces. The 1798 Rebellion was the first large-scale battle between the two ideals, but the Irish tricolours were first mentioned in 1830, but widespread recognition was not achieved until around 1848.
This tricolor flag was the ultimate symbol of peace and unity in Ireland, but was not officially instated as the national flag until 1938, following independence from Britain and the new constitution. It was however used during the Easter Rising of 1916, where it was raised above the General Post Office in Dublin and used ever since.
Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom, uses the ‘Union Jack.’ The current design of the flag dates back to 1801, the union of Ireland and Great Britain. It consists of the red cross of St. George edged in white, representing England, the red (x-shaped) cross of St. Patrick (representing Ireland), superimposed over the flag of Scotland, or St. Andrew’s Cross or Saltire. Wales is not represented on the flag.
While the British government does not suggest that the flag be flown at all times, it can often be seen flown 365 days a year atop Northern Ireland buildings. This is often seen as a sign against the Republic of Ireland, with respect to the views of the unionists as their loyalty to the British crown.
The Four Provinces Flag of Ireland consists of the four traditional provinces of Ireland, Munster, Leinster, Connacht, and Ulster. This flag is often used by various all-ireland sports team and cultural organizations, except the Gaelic Athletic Association, who uses the National flag at events.