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Ireland’s Flag: What the Colors Represent

Jeremy O’Donnell- Getty Images

My family name on my grandma’s side is Minogue and we come from County Clare, Ireland. While she lived in her father’s home, my grandma was forbidden to wear green.

My great-great grandfather, Michael T. Minogue of County Clare, Ireland was studying to become a priest when he, for reasons we don’t know, decided he didn’t want to be a priest after all. But what’s more is that he decided he didn’t want to be Catholic anymore so  became Protestant. Michael T. came from an Irish Catholic family and when he decided to switch to the Protestant faith, his family wanted nothing to do with him. They actually banished him and acted as though he’d never even been a member of the family.  My great-grandfather was bitter about his Dad being shunned from the family and because the green in the Irish flag represents the Catholic faith, my grandma and her sisters were forbidden to wear green while under his roof.

Take a look at the Irish flag and you’ll see that there are three colors. Orange (standing for Irish Protestants), green (signifying Irish Catholics and the republican cause) and white (representing the hope for peace between them).

What’s interesting is that most people associate Catholicism with Ireland, but the gap between the number of Catholics and Protestants is incredibly narrow. According to Wikipedia, of those declaring a religion in the 2011 census, 738,033 were Catholic and 752,555 were non-Roman Catholic Christian (i.e. Protestant). A difference of only 14,522.

The color orange of the Irish flag is associated Northern Irish Protestants because of William of Orange, the King of England, Scotland, and Ireland who defeated King James II, a Roman Catholic, in the Battle of the Boyne near Dublin in 1690 defeated. William III’s battle victory secured Protestant dominance over the island.

Green is the color the represents the Irish Catholic nationalists of the south and while it may have something to do with shamrocks and the lush green landscape, green also symbolizes revolution. An earlier, unofficial Irish flag (you’ve probably seen it-the gold harp on a green background) served from 1798 until the early twentieth century as a symbol of nationalism.

The Tricolour flag was first unveiled to the public on March 7, 1848, by the militant nationalist Thomas Francis Meagher. People wanted to know why the flag colors changed and Thomas explained his hope for a country that is unfortunately still a dream to this day saying:  “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.”

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