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The original 1848 Irish Tricolour - Meagher, the National Flag Monument, Lamartine, and the Treason

Last modified: 2011-08-27 by rob raeside
Keywords: ireland | meagher |
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My own theory as to the origin of the Irish tricolour is that since 19th century British / Internationalist republican tricolours and tribands were red, white, green all that Meagher or somebody that he knew did was to replace the red with orange, and thus the tricolour of 1848 appeared in Ireland. The flag is often credited to French women but this may imply that it was a flag devised by the exiled Irish republican community in Paris. The flag might well have its origins as far back as 1792 in Year 1 of the Revolution when a host of international delegates were invited to Paris to contribute to the founding documents of the French Republic, or even earlier. This is the year that I deem the Internationalist red, white, green tricolour to have originated by differentiating it from the first French tricolore by exchanging 'democratic' green for blue which in British radical eyes was the 'governmental' or 'Tory' colour in the UK and had been the colour of revolutionaries in France who had rejected green because it became associated with the reactionary aristocrat the Comte d'Artois. The red, white, blue flag that was the first French tricolore had been devised by La Fayette to signify the constitutional monarchy by setting its royal white between the red and blue of the Paris militia. This was reversed in 1794 to produce the second flag which signified the republic, the blue, white, red tricolore which is now identified as the French national flag. Likewise the modern Irish tricolour was a reversal of Meagher's 1848 flag in the Easter Rising of 1916, but Meagher's tricolour appears to have its origin traceable right through to the first French tricolore of 1789 via the British / Internationalist tricolours and tribands that I date to 1792 ... so, somebody needs to find a reference to this flag being used in France by Irish republicans in exile in the 1790's - a project for somebody better resourced than me.

Here is another item about the Irish tricolour culled from Wikipedia, and it mentions a date a week earlier than so far mentioned on this page for the first unfurling of the flag in Ireland. This mentions the original Irish tricolour being orange, white, green with a red hand of Ulster in the middle: in the legend of Labraid Lámh Dhearg or Labraid Lámderg (Labraid of the Red Hand) there was a boat race to decide who would claim the land of Ulster. The first contender to put his hand on the shore would win the kingdom of Ulster, and Labraid was behind in this contest but so determined to win that he cut his own hand off and threw it over the heads of the other contestants to secure the prize. A very appropriate motif for Irish republicans eager not only drive the British out of Ireland by force but to secure Ulster as well. See -

From -
" In January 1847, Meagher, together with John Mitchel, William Smith O'Brien, and Thomas Devin Reilly formed a new repeal body, the Irish Confederation. In 1848, Meagher and O'Brien went to France to study revolutionary events there, and returned to Ireland with the new Flag of Ireland, a tricolour of green, white and orange made by and given to them by French women sympathetic to the Irish cause.[25] The acquisition of the flag is commemorated at the 1848 Flag Monument in the Irish parliament. The design used in 1848 was similar to the present flag, except that orange was placed next to the staff, and the red hand of Ulster decorated the white field. This flag was first flown in public on March 1, 1848, during the Waterford by-election, when Meagher and his friends flew the flag from the headquarters of Meagher's "Wolfe Tone Confederate Club" at No. 33, The Mall, Waterford.[26] "

References given :
25 - PDF ' The National Flag ' Department of the Taoiseach -
26 - Cavanagh, Micahel (1892). Gen. Thomas Francis Meagher - The Leading Events of his career. Worchester, MA: The Messenger Press.

There is also a National Flag Monument in the village of The Commons near Ballingarry which claims the first unfurling of the flag - - and it is the starting point for the annual 1848 Famine Walk - - ' At the start of the Walk, at the National Flag Monument in the village of The Commons, Dr Thomas McGrath welcomed Minister Martin Mansergh and the large number of walkers ' ... " In 1848 Meagher gave Ireland what would become its national flag. He brought the tricolour back from France and presented it to the Irish people with the noble words which are inscribed on the monument in Ballingarry: "The white in the centre 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." Meagher made a speech in The Commons during the Rising. The tricolour is a flag of 1848, and as is also inscribed on the monument, tradition states that the tricolour was flown here at that time." The annual Walk takes places, rain or shine, on the 25th of July, the day of the Rising.

Now I had it in the back of my head that Lamartine had presented the Irish with this flag, and in searching the internet I came across this reference. 'On 17 March, Lamartine received a deputation from the Irish community in Paris, led by a Monsieur Leonard, during which, according to the account in the Moniteur, 'the flag of Ireland' was presented to the provisional government and Lamartine made a brief statement in which he praised Daniel O'Connell and expressed the hope that the Irish people would achieve their constitutional independence in the same way as they had secured their religious freedom.' This was reported in The Times 20th March 1848 and caused consternation. (p.498 Irish Historical Studies, Vol 24 No 96 Nov 1985 - Ireland and France in 1848 - D N Petler - Lamartine quickly back peddled on these sentiments that he had expressed towards the various oppressed peoples of Europe, and made overtures afterwards to the British Ambassador Lord Normanby who felt that the acknowledgement of the Irish Flag was an acknowledgement of a potential Irish state. Normanby ' declared that he 'knew of no such thing as an Irish flag; and that if it was offered to place it by the side of the French colours it could only be as a rebel flag' . Lamartine hastily assured the ambassador 'that he had seen no such flag; ... that he had answered the deputation himself, and had not made the slightest allusion to it' . Normanby insisted that a denial be printed in the Moniteur, to which Lamartine agreed, saying 'he would do his best to give me complete satisfaction on the subject' ... or so Normanby reported it to Palmerston on 18th March 1848, and recorded it in his ' Year of Revolution ' i p243-5. The British government was concerned about how the events in France were inspiring unrest in Britain and Ireland, particularly amongst the Chartists, and they passed the Treason Felony Act 1848 to defend the monarchy on 22nd April after a three day riot in which republican slogans were chanted by large crowds in Trafalgar Square fighting with the police and erecting barricades 6-8th March 1848. (For an account of this online - Amongst the first people prosecuted under this law only weeks later was Meagher, for, amongst other things, unfurling his orange, white and green tricolour and inviting people to enroll in his proposed National Guard. (I found it difficult to find a single source to quote for this - this is an extensive account and Meagher is arrested for Treason Felony at the bottom of this page -

David B. Lawrence, 6 July 2011