Source: IRSP NEWS
In Republican working class areas of Ireland, especially the North of the country, Republican flags are very much in evidence particularly in the run up to the anniversary of the 1916 Rising at Easter time. Generally speaking, Irish Republican flags would not be on display to the same extent that pro-British flags would be in Unionist towns and villages in the North East of the country. Many Unionist areas in the North of Ireland would be tackily festooned with Loyalist flags and bunting on a near 365 days per year basis.
In Republican areas householders would still be very conscious that, due to the sectarian nature of the Northern state-let, their flying of Republican flags to commemorate the Easter Rising would be viewed by the various forces of the British occupied ‘state-let’ as being subversive, leaving them susceptible to surveillance and indeed raids by the MI5-directed PSNI/RUC. Until fairly recently, Republican flags were the subject of a de jure ban, which was rigorously enforced by the North’s paramilitary police force the RUC and this was used as a pretext to break up even the mildest of Nationalist parades which had the temerity to carry the National flag of Ireland, usually referred to as the Tricolour. Indeed one of the sparks that helped ignite the tinder that led to the conflagration of the 40+ year conflict in the North was the ‘Divis Street flag incident when the RUC acting at the behest of arch-Loyalist, the late Ian Paisley, stormed the then Sinn Fein HQ to remove a small Irish tricolour on display that caused zero offence to any local resident. (There is considerable truth in the words ascribed to Napper Tandy that the ‘wearing of the Green’ has been effectively outlawed by British rule for centuries, as the old song goes)
In most Republican areas the flag most prevalently on display would be the National flag, which is also commonly referred to as ‘the tricolour’, it is made up of three vertical bands of green, white and orange. The tricolour’s origins are from the French revolution and the era of Europe-wide bourgeois revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries. Many of the then new nation-states of Europe from that era, such as France and Italy post-Risorgimento also have tricolours as their national flags composed of various colours.
A very close second to the Irish tricolour would be the Starry Plough flag which is becoming even more popular in Irish Republican working class areas. The Starry Plough has a blue background with white stars marking the shape of the constellation Ursa Major, also known as the heavenly plough. The Starry Plough is the flag of Irish Republican Socialism and is closely associated with the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP), although not exclusively so. Most Irish Republican colour parties, marching bands or parades will have a Starry Plough included. The Starry Plough has it’s origins in James Connolly’s Irish Citizen Army, although the design most seen today is an adaptation of the original, which was adopted by the left-wing Republican Congress of the 1930’s. The original Starry Plough aka the Plough and Stars has a green background, a ploughshare with the Ursa Major constellation marked on it and a sword as the plough’s blade, in the colour yellow.
The Sunburst flag, which was adopted in the early 19th century as the flag of Na Fianna Eireann youth movement, has a blue background with a splintered sunrise in red or dark orange. In recent times the Sunburst has become quite popular and is a staple in most colour parties.
The Four Provinces flag is also quite popular as a stand alone flag. It incorporates the four flags of the provinces of Ulster, Connacht, Munster and Leinster. Some colour parties carry the Four Provinces flag or each provincial flag individually. During the long period of the banning of the Irish tricolour, especially from rural Nationalist/Republican marches, the Four Provinces flags were often used as a substitute and received less attention from the sectarian, antagonistic RUC.
The Harp flag on a green background is relatively popular in rural Republican areas, although it is a flag that is rightly or wrongly associated with Hibernian-type narrow Nationalism. The 9 County Ulster flag (contained in the Four Provinces Flag above) which has a yellow background, a red cross and a red hand within a shield, does make appearances as a stand alone flag, although due to it’s very slight similarity to the Unionist ‘Northern Ireland’ flag, it is not as popular as it perhaps should be. (In reality, the 9 County Ulster flags only heraldic link to the Northern Ireland flag is the red hand of O’Neil, the latter flag is strictly speaking the cross of St George with the red hand incorporated inside a 6 pointed, Zionist type star.)
In conclusion, Irish Republican flags are colourful and steeped in history and tradition.Unlike the serial be-decking of Unionist areas, many people have given their lives for right to display Republican emblems. As stated earlier, in times past at least, many people were reluctant to commemorate the likes of the Easter Rising by flying flags from their homes, as it potentially marked their homes out for raids by the RUC and British army. In many cases the displaying of Republican flags by residents were used by the state-sponsored death squads of the Loyalist paramilitaries to target ordinary civilians for murder. Many Irish Republican parties and groups have their own specially designed flags which are often seen at protests and demos.
Irrespective of what flag one chooses to fly and align oneself to, it is a small gesture to commemorate the heroism of the Revolutionaries who against overwhelming odds took up arms in open revolt against the British imperialist presence in Ireland during Easter 1916 in Dublin and those who selflessly laid their lives down in later periods of the national liberation struggle. 99 years later their objectives have still to be fully realised, with British imperialism still undemocratically claiming possession of the six northern counties. However, any examination of the cyclic nature of the Irish dialectic will still concur with Irish Marxist theoretician and Irish Republican Socialist leader of the 1916 Easter Rising, James Connolly, in his speech to the Court Martial that sentenced him to death following the Rising, when he proclaimed:
“Capitalism combines formal equality with economic and, consequently, social inequality. This is one of the principal distinguishing features of capitalism, one that is mendaciously screened by the supporters of the bourgeoisie, the liberals, and that is not understood by the petty-bourgeois democrats. Out of this distinguishing feature of capitalism, by the way, the necessity arises, while fighting resolutely for economic equality, openly to recognise capitalist inequality and, under certain conditions, even to include this open recognition of inequality as a basis for the proletarian state organisation (the Soviet Constitution).
But capitalism cannot be consistent even with regard to formal equality (equality before the law, “equality” between the well-fed and the hungry, between the property-owner and the property-less). And one of the most flagrant manifestations of this inconsistency is the inferior position of woman compared with man. Not a single bourgeois state, not even the most progressive, republican democratic state, has brought about complete equality of rights.
But the Soviet Republic of Russia promptly wiped out, without any exception, every trace of inequality in the legal status of women, and secured her complete equality in its laws.
It is said that the level of culture is best characterised by the legal status of woman. There is a grain of profound truth in this saying. From this point of view, only the dictatorship of the proletariat, only the socialist state, could achieve and did achieve a higher level of culture. Therefore, the foundation (and consolidation) of the first Soviet Republic–and alongside and in connection with this, the Communist International-inevitably lends a new, unparalleled, powerful impetus to the working women’s movement.
For, when we speak of those who, under capitalism, were directly or indirectly, wholly or partially oppressed, it is precisely the Soviet system, and the Soviet system only, that secures democracy. This is clearly demonstrated by the position of the working class and the poor peasants. It is clearly demonstrated by the position of women.
But the Soviet system represents the final decisive conflict for the abolition of classes, for economic and social equality. For us, democracy, even democracy for those who were oppressed under capitalism, including democracy for the oppressed sex, is inadequate.
The working women s movement has for its objective the fight for the economic and social, and not merely formal, equality of woman. The main task is to draw the women into socially productive labour, extricate them from “domestic slavery”, free them of their stultifying and humiliating resignation to the perpetual and exclusive atmosphere of the kitchen and nursery.
It is a long struggle, requiring a radical remaking both of social technique and of customs. But this struggle will end with the complete triumph of communism!”
(Pravda, March 4, 1920)
(Rosa Luxemburg: Women’s Suffrage and the Class Struggle, 1912)