The Irish State - Name, Symbols and National Day


  • Name of State

    The Constitution provides (Article 4) that the name of the State is Éire, or in the English language, Ireland. Normal practice is to restrict the use of the name Éire to texts in the Irish language and to use Ireland in all English-language texts, with corresponding translations for texts in other languages. The Republic of Ireland Act of 1948 provides for the description of the State as the Republic of Ireland but this provision has not changed the usage Ireland as the name of the State in the english language.

    The etymology of the name Éire is uncertain and various theories have been advanced. There is no doubt but that it is a name of considerable antiquity. It first appears as Ierne in Greek geographical writings which may be based on sources as early as the 5th century BC. In Ptolemy’s map (c AD 150) the name appears as Iouernia; some such form was transliterated into Latin as Iuverna. The standard Latin form, Hibernia, first appears in the works of Caesar, who seems to have confused it with the Latin word hibernus (wintry). Ériu, the Old Irish form of Éire, was current in the earliest Irish literature. The modern English word Ireland derives from the Irish word Éire with the addition of the Germanic word land.

    In mythology, Ériu was one of three divine eponyms for Ireland, together with Banba and Fodla. The idea of Ireland as a heroine reappears as a common motif in later literature in both Irish and English.

  • Flag

    The national flag is a tricolour of green, white and orange. The tricolour is rectangular in shape, the width being twice the depth. The three colours are of equal size, vertically disposed, and the green is displayed next to the staff. The flag was first introduced by Thomas Francis Meagher during the revolutionary year of 1848 as an emblem of the Young Ireland movement, and it was often seen displayed at meetings alongside the French tricolour.

    The green represents the older Gaelic and Anglo-Norman element in the population, while the orange represents the Protestant planter stock, supporters of William of Orange. The meaning of the white was well expressed by Meagher when he introduced the flag. "The white in the centre", he said, "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."

    It was not until the Rising of 1916, when it was raised above the General Post Office in Dublin, that the tricolour came to be regarded as the national flag. It rapidly gained precedence over any flag which had existed before, and its use as a national flag is enshrined in the Constitution.

  • Emblem

    The harp has been regarded as the official symbol or coat of arms of Ireland since medieval times. As such it is depicted alongside the coats of arms of a dozen or more medieval European kingdoms on a single folio of the Wijnbergen roll of arms compiled about 1270. The harp is found on the banners of the Irish brigades, which were formed in the armies of continental European countries during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

    The heraldic harp is invariably used by the Government, its agencies and its representatives at home and abroad. It is engraved on the seal matrix of the office of President as well as on the reverse of the coinage of the state. It is also emblazoned on the distinctive flag of the President - a gold harp with silver strings on an azure field.

    The model for the artistic representation of the heraldic harp is the 14th century harp now preserved in the Museum of Trinity College Dublin, popularly known as the Brian Boru harp.

  • Anthem

    The text of The Soldier’s Song (Amhrán na bhFíann), consisting of three stanzas and a chorus, was written in 1907 by Peadar Kearney, who also composed the music together with Patrick Heeney. It was first published in the newspaper, Irish Freedom, in 1912. The chorus, of which the words and music are given above, was formally adoptedas the National Anthem in 1926, displacing the earlier Fenian anthem, God Save Ireland. A section of the National Anthem (consisting of the first four bars followed by the last five) is also the Presidential Salute.

  • National Day

    The national day is St Patrick’s Day, the 17th of March.


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