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Ireland: county colours

Last modified: 2006-03-18 by rob raeside
Keywords: ireland | county colours |
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Origin of the county colours

There are two types of county flags which must be distinguished: firstly the flags which are commonly used by private individuals as a symbol of the county; secondly, flags which are used by the county councils (elected bodies which are responsible for local services such as water supply, public lighting, garbage collection, repair of minor roads, libraries, swimming pools, parks, etc.), not as a symbol of the county, but of the council itself.

The flags in popular use are based on the colours of the county teams in Gaelic football and hurling - the most popular spectator sports. As these flags are entirely unofficial, the designs vary: one sees the colours arranged as horizontal stripes, quarters, lozenges, etc., but vertical stripes are the most common. These flags have outgrown their sporting origins and are now widely used on festive occasions, flown alongside the European Union, national and provincial flags at shopping centres, hotels, etc. However, in the six counties that constitute Northern Ireland, use of the county colours is confined to nationalist areas - the counties in Northern Ireland have been abolished for administrative purposes and the sports from which the county colours derive are not generally supported by unionists.

Vincent Morley, 4 December 1996

Caveat: county flags using the national tricolour

In Ireland a type of flag showing the national tricolour with the county arms in the central white stripe can be found being sold.  This flag is bogus - no county uses this design for its county flag. A similar phenomenon exists with Mexican state flags.

António Martins, 3 June 2002