Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Northern Ireland Flag?

My cousin is going to the states and for some reason needed a flag from where she was from. Living in Northern Ireland I gave her an Ulster Banner but I can't help think she's taking a flag that does not officially represent her.
Flags in my part of the world can often be a delicate and controversial subject. The Fact is that Northern Ireland is the only constituent country of the United Kingdom that does not have its own official legal flag.
The story of the Northern Ireland flag really begins with the creation of Northern Ireland as a constituent country of the UK. The Irish Free State(later the Republic of Ireland) broke away from the UK in 1921/2. In 1925 the local Northern Ireland government was its own coat of arms by Royal Warrant. Shown below: 
 The main feature of this is the Red hand in a crowned six pointed star(representing six counties). This comes from province of Ulster Flag,
 The NI government was also granted the right to display their arms on a flag or banner. However this was not done until 1953 the year Elizabeth II was crowned. This is what it looks like:
    File:Ulster banner.svg
This served as the official flag until the Northern Ireland was brought under direct rule from London due to the NI government failing to control a recent outburst of violence and was abolished in 1973. This flag is still used by sporting bodies that represent NI international such as the International football team and Commonwealth Games team for example. But since the new Local Assembly has been established it has failed to adopt or readopt any flag. Part of the problem is political sensitivity.
I have drawn up several designs most spread across the internet. But here is my first design of a flag and coat of arms:

The coat of Arms is basically an improved version of the old one, featuring the six flax flower logo of the Northern Ireland assembly and Giant's Causeway stones with shamrocks.  The flag staffs bear St Patrick's Saltire  and  Ulster Flag. The symbolism of the tricolour is to represent more than peace between Unionism and Nationalism but as fallows:
Blue: Unionism, Royalty, Close links with Scotland, Maritime heritage, the Sea, beauty of the inland waterways,constancy, faith, good health, truth, clean air,healing, hope, friendship,patience, wisdom, peace, loyalty.
White: Peace, truth, purity, peace, protection, happiness,joy, glory 
Green: Nationalism, natural beauty, countryside, agricultural heritage,reshness and renewal, fertility and growth,harmony, vitality, healing,Green is associated with the direction of North.hope 
The symbolism of the crowned harp is important, the harp is mostly an Irish Nationalist symbol but also appears of the UK coat of Arms and the Royal Coat of arms and flag. Its also been incoperated into the badges of police and Irish regiments in the British Army. The crown is based on an ancient Irish crown. The inspiration for this was the Scottish crown which replaces the UK crown on many symbols. The Royal Mail in Scotland has the Scots crown but the UK crown everywhere else. Hopefully creating a N.Irish identity that does not conflict with Irishness or Britishness, but weaves into both.
I also picked these colours as they are prominent in (mostly unionist supported) Northern Ireland Football team supporters flags. I have played about a little though and come up with the fallowing flags in case a tricolour based flag even if different from that of the Irish Republic is rejected by unionists(even though I designed it):

This demostrates how it can be turned on its side. The Red hand and hexagon is symbolic of not only the 6 NI counties but also the Giant's Causeway. the last flag with text bears "Northern Ireland" in English, Irish and Ulster-Scots the three main languages and dialects spoken in the province.

  St Patrick's Saltire has been used to represent Ireland for centuries and features in the UK flag(the only flag with any legal status in NI) and the badge of the  reformed police service(below) which all political parties agreed on:
One wonder's why a design based on this cross was not used in the first place? Most importantly this design is politically neutral (supposedly) and I have incorporated it into some designs. The first one:

The crown of state symbolises the British identity of Northern Ireland and its relationship with and place in the United Kingdom. The Harp symbolises the Irish identity of Northern Ireland and its relationship with the rest of the island. The flag on the flag staff represent the Loyalist and Republican traditions the orange flag with the purple star is based on the 'Boyne Standard' associated with the Orange Order. The green flag is a prominent Nationalist symbol.
I have also designed a yellow version of the flag making it more like the Ulster Flag and a version that replaces the Unionist/Nationalist symbols with symbols of peace:

The main problem (I have) with these flags is that there is a lot going on, and I feel that often the simpler a flag is the better. So my latest design is as fallows:

The main difference with the other designs is that the flag is not simply a banner of the coat of arms. But rather displays the shield of the arms. Replacing the Unionist/Nationalist flags on the coat of arms with St Patrick's Saltire(neutral) which is also on the flag itself, and a blue harp flag similar to the one on the Royal Standard and personal flag of the president of the Republic. So if you look to London or Dublin you should be able to associate with these arms. I also included an olive wreath in the design of the shield representing the peace process which I think goes very well. I also used a lighter paler yellow which does not conflict with the red too much.

These are what I consider my best designs. I might post the other ones in a later post, I will also make a guide to flags in Northern Ireland in a later post. Bye for now.


  1. The bottom two images in the post are the best two IMO.

  2. Fascinating concepts, if a little reliant on heraldic and sectarian symbols. Good flag design is simple. While recognisability can give it an edge, the golden rule is if a child can draw it, it is a good flag. The simpler the better. Complication is perfect for heraldry but flags need to be accepted by large and diverse populations, and so require subtlety. They are interprative rather than commanding. They have to be capable of meaning many things to many people. Keep designing!

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