Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the Irish Tricolour is a symbol of ‘a shared future and a shared island’ at an event to mark the 175th anniversary of the flying of the Irish National Flag.
The Taoiseach was speaking at a flag-raising ceremony in Waterford as part of a program of events to mark the anniversary.
The flag was first flown at 33 The Mall in the city on March 7, 1848 by Waterford native Thomas Francis Meagher, who had been gifted it by a group of French women sympathetic to the struggle for Irish nationalism.
Quoting Meagher, the Taoiseach said the original ideal of unity behind the flag was as pertinent today as it was almost two centuries ago.
“In his own inspirational words, and I quote, ‘the white in the centre signifies a lasting truce between the Orange and Green and I trust that beneath its folds, the hands of Irish Protestants and Irish Catholics may be clasped together in generous and heroic brotherhood’,” said the Taoiseach.
“And today, our flag remains a symbol of hope, of a shared future and a shared island for everyone who calls Ireland home.”
He added: “As a State, we revere the Tricolour but let us not lose sight of Thomas Francis Meagher, the vision of a Waterford man, all that time ago who had a vision and a symbol for a shared future for our island and these are the ideals that must be cherished and championed and upheld here at home and also abroad.”
Also attending the ceremony were the ambassadors of Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Britain, the USA and Ukraine.
The 69th New York Infantry Regiment of the United States Army — The Fighting 69th — were also represented at the event.
Meagher — who was exiled to Australia following the failed Young Irelander Rebellion of 1849 — later travelled to America, where he would eventually become a citizen and led the regiment in the American Civil War.
Following the war, he served as Secretary and Acting Governor of Montana.
“He certainly left an indelible mark on Waterford, on Ireland and the world,” said the Taoiseach.
“But what is arguably his most enduring achievement was the introduction of our flag, the Tricolour, in 1848 that was inspired by the French Revolution and other revolutions taking place across Europe at the time.”
At the event, Mr Varadkar paid tribute to the enduring relationship between Ireland and some of the nations represented at The Mall, with the flags of America and France also being raised.
“The Tricolour, our National Flag, is truly integral to our national identity but it started here in the city of Waterford,” said the Taoiseach.
“It espouses ideals of peace, inclusion and unity, ideals which are so important in determining how we view and relate to one another on our island, in Europe and on the international stage.
“And the three flags raised here today represent the United States of America, and France our oldest allies, and of course Ireland — three great republics who drew on the themes of liberty, equality, freedom and fraternity and whose revolutionary histories influenced each other deeply and who continue to champion these ideals and support one another today.”
The ceremony was the culmination of a three-day program of events to mark the historic occasion.
As well as the flag-raising ceremony, there was also a parade of Irish military vehicles and a veterans’ parade.
The Irish Naval Ship LE James Joyce was docked in Waterford Harbor, while a wreath was laid by Waterford native Dan Mulhall, the former Irish Ambassador to both Britain and the USA.
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