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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 O’Callaghans Mills, County Clare, Ireland. While she lived in her father’s home, my grandma was forbidden to wear green because of Irish religious tensions.

My great-great grandfather, Michael T. Minogue, was studying to become a priest and decided he didn’t want to be one after all. What’s more is that Michael T. didn’t just walk away from priesthood, he also walked away from the Catholic church and became a Protestant.

Michael T. Minogue came from a very loyal Irish Catholic family and when he decided to switch to the Protestant faith, his family wanted nothing to do with him. They outcast him and those who were his flesh and blood. The hurt from being ostracized trickled down to my great-grandfather and he put his foot down and forbid his children to wear green in any capacity while they lived under his roof. The reason for banning the wearing of green is because the green color in the Irish flag represents the Catholic faith and my great-grandfather was very bitter about being shunned from the family over his father’s religious decision.

Take a look at the Irish flag and you’ll see that there are three colors. The orange stands for Irish Protestants, the green signifies Irish Catholics and the republican cause and the white represents the hope for peace between Catholics and Protestants.

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 in Northern Ireland (considered the most religious part of the county), 738,033 were Catholic and 752,555 were non-Roman Catholic Christian (i.e. Protestant). That’s 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. William’s battle victory secured Protestant dominance over the island.

Green is the color that 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.”

[via InfoPlease/ Wikipedia/InfoPlease]

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