|The flag of Ireland over a statue in Dublin--Cathal McNaughton/Reuters|
As revelers celebrate St. Patrick's Day here and in Ireland and elsewhere this week, this is a salute to that independent, rebellious heritage, and to the residents of that country who are readers of this blog.
The flag, like many around the world, is a flag of rebellion. Officially adopted as the country's flag in December 1921 when the country gained independence from Britain, it had been around for about 80 years as a symbol of resistance. It was first used in 1848, with the colors switched, in a failed revolution led by Thomas Meagher. Instead of being sentenced to death, the leaders were sentenced to Australia.
Ireland's "Great Hunger" in the late 1840s help spur both the rebellion and waves of immigration to America, binding the countries' common heritage and culture, which continues today.
Meager said the green represented the Catholic majority, the orange the Protestant minority, and the white, a lasting truce between them. The Protestants were settled into Ireland in the 1550s by the British. Independence came with the division of the country, with Northern Ireland staying with the United Kingdom.
"The Arms of Ireland," an earlier flag, a gold harp on a green background was a symbol of nationalism from 1798 to the 20th Century, and is now the flag of one of the country's provinces.
The tricolor is a powerful symbol in America too. Unthinking, and xenophobic Florida officials in Atlantic Beach passed a law earlier this year forbidding the display of any national flag but the American flag. The resulting uproar, after an Irish pub that had long displayed the Irish flag was ticketed and order to remove the flag, forced them to back down this week. Not smart, especially with St. Patrick's Day coming up.
St. Patrick and the Irish attitudeThe patron saint of Ireland was first a teenage slave for six years in Ireland before escaping, but after becoming a cleric, he returned to Ireland as an ordained bishop in 432 AD. He served till his death, March 17, 460. Within 200 years he was already revered as a patron saint.
Ireland gets its name from the invading Celtic tribes which arrived about 600 B.C. Calling their new home "Euerilo" from their homeland, it evolved to old Irish "Eriu" to "Erie" in Irish and "Ireland" in English. Their druid religions were overcome through the efforts of St. Patrick and others.
A history of invasion, occupation and rebellion have shaped the Irish attitude and nationalism. After the Normans conquered England, they invaded Ireland in 1169 and the country was ruled as a kingdom by the British crown. In 1603 a victory at Ulster gave Britain complete control, and the following years included land confiscations and importing more Protestant settlers. Rebellions and violence continued until a Home Rule Bill in 1912 provided for solving "the Irish Problem." World War I and politics and more bloodshed in a war of independence delayed action until the truce and division of 1921 that gave Ireland its independence as the Irish Free State.