The Irish tricolor flag that proudly flew over the Dublin General Post Office during the 1916 Easter Rising will be on display at this year’s New York City St. Patrick’s Day Foundation Gala Dinner. An original copy of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic, on loan from Ireland’s National Famine Museum, will also be on display at the March 16 event at The New York Athletic Club.
Thomas Meagher, one of the key leaders of the Young Irelander movement in the 1840’s, designed the Irish tricolor flag, modeling it after the French tricolor flag used in the French Revolution in 1789. The Irish patriot, future U.S. Army Civil War hero and Governor of Montana, was born in Waterford City and educated in France. While in France, he came to admire the populist principles of the French Revolution. He believed “A national flag is the most sacred thing a nation could possess.”
The 1916 Easter Rising made the tricolor flag famous, but Meagher first flew his flag publicly during the Young Irelander Rebellion on March 7, 1848, from the Wolfe Tone Confederate Club, at No. 33 The Mall. It fluttered proudly for eight days and nights before being removed by the British authorities. The Republic of Ireland now celebrates Flag Day on March 7th.
For his role in the 1848 rebellion, Meagher was tried for treason and sentenced to death. The sentence was commuted to banishment and he was exiled to Tasmania, Australia. Meagher managed to escape and make his way to New York City.
The tricolor’s green and orange colors represent Ireland’s Catholic majority and Protestant minority. Meagher said the white 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 heroic brotherhood.”
Meagher brought an Irish tricolor flag to an April 13, 1848 meeting in Dublin, where Irish nationalist John Mitchel said “I hope to see that flag one day waving as our national banner.” The flag had been made by Frence women sympathetic to the Irish cause and given to Meagher as a gift.
From 1642 until the 1916 Easter Rising, Ireland’s nationalist flag had been green with a gold harp.
During the Easter Rising of 1916, both Irish flags, the tricolor and the green nationalist flag with a golden harp and the words “Republic of Ireland” were flown above the General Post Office in Dublin. The tricolor was adopted by the Irish Republican Army during the 1919-21 War of Independence, used by the Irish Free State and confirmed as Ireland’s official flag in 1937.