Why Irish county flags may be more important than you realize

Sunniva Batalden

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Ever wondered why flags look like they do? Why the use of stars, stripes and obsessive reds? Here we take a look at why your county flag may be more important than you realize.

As Spain is marching into uncertain times there might be a new flag waving above Dublin City hall in the coming months. The Estelada, also known as La Senyera Estelada, is an unofficial flag used by Catalonian protesters marching for independence. Originally it was designed after the Puerto Rican flag, who gained independence from Spain waving the same star striped triangle.

And so we are left to consider our own connection to flags. What is the worth of a flag? What symbolism does it carry, and above all- what flag would you choose to rally under?  

As Hogwarts houses, they each carry their own meaning and history portrayed on a bed sheet, no?

Actually, no. It carries far more value than just a symbol or seal on a bed sheet, or SOB, as we will come to learn. So what makes people so obsessed over flags? In a TED talk with Roman Mars, host of design podcast 99% Invisible, he tries to explain what makes a good and bad flag, separating them into 5 different sections.

The rules of a good flag:

  1. Keep it simple. A derivative from KISS (keep it simple, stupid) a good flag should be so simple a child can draw it from memory.
  2. Use meaningful symbolism. If you have to write the name of your city/country on your flag, your symbolism has failed.
  3. Use 2 or 3 basic colours. Again, these should be reflected in the symbolism. No flag colours are there by chance.
  4. No lettering or seals. Seals are for letters, letters for papers, neither has anything to do with flags. Again, refrain from using writings of any kind.
  5. Be distinctive. Show originality, but with connection pulled from other flags as seen in Esteladas example above.

To realize how much you actually care about flags, view the TED talk in the video below: 

Want to know more about flag data, colours and their usage in world flags? Click (HERE).

Mars goes a great deal into detail on city flags and their horrendous history of bad design. But if you apply his rules to world flags you will start to see the main difference between a country flag and a city/county flag. You need to go no further than to your own Irish Tricolor. Carrying a heavy history of over 170 years, what separates its long history from your average county flag is the amount of stained blood. A country flag has a purpose to be carried outside its pole on the town hall. It is meant to symbolize its people in a greater way than sealings, it connects, not a city, but a country. It also needs to be seen from far away, which might explain the lacking city flag design, but not justify it. Again, we’re talking about SOBs (seals on a bed sheet).

The Dubcat, a potential mix between the Dublin City flag and the Catalonian flag.
The Dubcat, a potential mix between the Dublin City flag and the Catalonian flag. Credit: Sunniva Batalden

Yet we shouldn’t undermine the city flags meaning either. Chicago’s star striped flag is a great example. The blue striped maps out the city’s layout and two rivers. White is usually known to symbolize peace (yet not mentioned for this particular flag) and the 4 red stars represent 4 major historical events for the city, including the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. New York goes to great lengths to make sure their flag policies are upheld, as they recently announced all flags be on half-staff in regards to the shooting in Sutherland Springs on November 5th. Thus requiring all flags, the American flag, New York state and all city flags, to follow this requirement until further notice. Above all, city flags are a symbol of solidarity among its citizens upheld under the same law.

And we could here throw in a quiz over normal world flags, but what would be the fun in that? Take the test below and show how truly Irish born you are.

 

Already Irish? What does your county flag symbolize? Let us know in a comment below! 

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Sunniva Batalden