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Protocol: the do's and the don't's

As with the national flags of all states there are specific guidelines and protocols to be followed in relation to the Irish flag - 'An Bhratach Náisiúnta'.

The Department of the Taoiseach has general responsibility in relation to the flag and provide a booklet outlining guidelines intended to 'assist persons in giving due respect to the National Flag'.

There are no 'statutory requirements' in terms of guideline adherence but the State expects that 'the National Flag will be treated at all times with appropriate respect by those who use it.'

The guidelines explain everything from how the flag should be draped on a coffin during a funeral to how it should be carried alongside other flags and advise against writing slogans on our Flag for sporting occasions.

The first occasion that either house of the Oireachtas adopted a protocol for the Irish Flag was by a resolution of Seanad Eireann on the eve of the 165th anniversary of the first flying of the tricolour by Thomas F Meagher. In the Chamber for the occasion was Meaghers Great Great Grandson, Gilbert Meagher.

The Leader of the Seanad signed the resolution adopting the protocols tabled by Senator Mark Daly which were endorsed by all members. The protocols were drafted following consultation with the Defence Forces and the guidelines of the Department of An Taoiseach..

Here are some of those guidelines broken down into ten practices which should be followed and ten which shouldn't:


1When the National Anthem, Amhran Na bhFiann, is played in the presence of the National Flag, all present should face the National Flag, stand to attention and salute it, remaining at the salute until the last note of the music.

2In raising or lowering, the National Flag should not be allowed to touch the ground.

3When used to drape a coffin the green on the Irish flag should be at the head of the coffin.

4On ceremonial occasions when the National Flag is being hoisted or lowered, when it is passing by in a parade or when the National Anthem is played, all present should face it, stand to attention and salute.

5When the National Flag is carried with another flag, or flags, it should be carried in the place of honour, i.e. on the marching right - or on the left of an observer to- wards whom the flags are approaching.

6When displayed on a platform the National Flag should be above and behind the speaker's desk.

7The National Flag is frequently flown at half-mast on the death of a national or international figure on all prominent government buildings equipped with a flag pole. The death of a prominent local figure may be marked locally by the National Flag being flown at half-mast.

8The National Flag may be displayed, day and night, for the duration of a funeral.

9It is the normal practice to fly the National Flag daily at all military posts and from important State buildings in accordance with Irish Army Tradition.

10In the event of a display of crossed staffs the National Flag should be to the right and to the fore - to the left of the observer who is facing the flag. Its staff should be in front of the other flag or flags.


1The National Flag should never be defaced by placing slogans, logos, lettering or pictures of any kind on it, for example at sporting events.

2The National Flag should not be draped on cars, trains, boats or other modes of transport; it should not be carried flat, but should always be carried aloft and free, except when used to drape a coffin.

3Care should be taken to make sure the flag does not touch the ground, trail in water or become entangled in trees or other obstacles.

4When the National Flag is flying no other flag or pennant can fly higher than it.

5Where the National Flag is flown at half-mast no other flag should be half-masted.

6A flag is at half-mast in any position below the top of the staff but never below the middle point of the staff.

7Don't fly a worn-out flag. When the National Flag has become worn and frayed it is no longer fit for display and should not be used in any manner implying disrespect.

8When displayed on a platform, the flag should not be used to cover the speaker's desk, nor should it be draped over the platform.

9While being carried the National Flag should not be dipped by way of salute or compliment to the dead during memorial ceremonies.

10Often different shades of yellow, instead of orange, are seen at civilian functions on the flag. This misrepresentation of the National Flag should be actively discouraged.

Irish Independent