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Ireland: the Naval Service

Last modified: 2011-06-11 by rob raeside
Keywords: jack | harp | commodore |
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Naval Service jack

[Irish Jack] 2:3  Source: Album des Pavillons (2000)

by Željko Heimer

Flag introduced July 1947 (Hayes McCoy, 1979)

Vincent Morley, 2 February 2002

The Irish jack is a green flag with a yellow harp. Even if the harp represented should picture the same real harp (Brian Boru) as on the coat of arms, according to Vincent Morley, the representation actually used as a rule is much simplified. In effect it is only the silhouette of the harp. Also while the harp in the coat of arms is in the "playing position" so that the strings are vertical, on the jack it is rotated a bit (apparently about 15 degrees counterclockwise).  See also discussion of the harp.

Željko Heimer, 29 January 2002

The naval service jack is the historic Green Flag.

Vincent Morley, 19 December 1996

The Irish Naval Service flags website at shows the harp on the Jack with its strings upright (in the playing position) and gives the colour of those strings as "silver", rather than with yellow strings at an angle as we show here.

Christopher Southworth, 9 March 2004

Commodore's flag

[Commodore's flag] by Željko Heimer

The senior officer of the Irish Naval Service holds the rank of commodore and flies a swallowtail green pennant with a single yellow star centered between the point of the fork and the hoist.

Tom Gregg, 25 May 1997

Senior Officer Afloat

[Senior officer afloat flag] by Željko Heimer

Green triangular pennant.

Željko Heimer, 30 January 2002

Masthead Pennant

[Masthead pennant]

 by Željko Heimer

White long pennant with blue field by hoist containing the harp.

Željko Heimer, 30 January 2002

The pennant was introduced December 1939 (Hayes McCoy, 1979)

Vincent Morley, 2 February 2002

I doubt very much whether this flag is in use. I know that it was used during WWII when there were fears that Ireland might be invaded, but I have been looking at flags, including naval flags, for the past thirty years and I have never seen the masthead pennant in use. I don't think I would have overlooked it if I had seen it, because I know what it looks like from the books.

You must remember that the Irish naval service is not really a military force. It is more of a coast guard, engaged in fisheries protection, prevention of smuggling, rescue missions, etc. It's armament is very light - usually one gun per ship, and I suspect this explains why a flag that would be more appropriate for warships is not used.

There is a picture of the naval pennant in G.A. Hayes-McCoy, 'A History of Irish Flags' (Dublin 1979), and that shows a fairly detailed harp, similar to the one you have drawn, but with *white* strings, and on a more elongated field (about 3:2) of a lighter blue colour (about 51:51:204 in RGB colours).  See also discussion of the harp.

Vincent Morley, 30 January 2002

With reference to Vincent Morley's comment (above) on the absence of masthead pennant's on Irish Naval Service ships. I can assure that they are very much, in use once the ship is "in commission" (i.e., most of the ship's life).
Gerry O'Donoghue, Lt. Cdr. Irish Naval Service (Retd.)

Those with good eye-sight may wish to study the photographs of the eight vessels of the Irish naval service on the following pages for evidence of continued use of the pennant (I can't find any): Eithne, Deirdre, Emer, Aoife, Aisling, Orla, Ciara, Roisin.

Vincent Morley, 2 February 2002

I was aboard an Irish naval ship (the flagship) which was visiting the International Festival of the Sea in Portsmouth, England, in late June 2005, and can confirm that the warship pennant was being used. I saw the ship on several days, and the commissioning pennant was displayed throughout. It was hoisted from the mainmast. From deck it could be seen, but its small size (I estimate about 4 inches in width, by 36 inches in length) means that it would be rather difficult to spot from a distance. A crewmember confirmed that it was indeed the commissioning pennant. He also confirmed the Irish Navy's use of the green swallow-tailed Commodore's Flag with single gold star. As expected, the ship wore the Irish National Flag at the stern, and the Irish Jack at the jackstaff.

James Liston, 13 July 2005

Naval Service Colour

[Naval Service Colour] located by Miles Li, from the Irish Defence Force website

The Naval Service Colour is a double-sided square banner. The primary colour is navy blue on both sides. The obverse side carries the Defence Forces badge at the centre superimposed over a pair of crossed silver foul anchors. The reverse side bears a Gold harp with silver strings enclosed in a gold grommet or continuous rope ring. Below the grommet are the words 'An tSeirbhis Chabhlaigh'. The colour is bordered by a two inch wide gold fringe.

Apart from the Naval Service Colour, each individual ship carries a pennant, which is a smaller navy blue flag, also square and fringed. The obverse side shows the ships coat of arms or crest as it is more commonly (but incorrectly) known, while the reverse bears a foul anchor in gold. The pennant would be worn by the ships company on ceremonial parades and displayed near the gangway on important occasions.


In Ireland, colours are governed by Defence Force Regulations that lays down which formations may have colours and the broad rules as to their design and use. The Naval Service colour was presented to the Naval Service on 12 July 1996 by her Excellency, President Mary Robinson.

Joe McMillan, 10 December 2002