Object: Plough and the Stars Flag
National Museum of Ireland
Object: The Plough and the Stars flag
Physical Characteristics: 6' x 5' 5". Green Field with gilt fringe. On the field a yellow plough outlined in black and seven silver stars also outlined in black. Patches missing over the right hand shaft of the plough and beneath it. Another patch is missing in the field to left. The coulter of the plough is represented as a sword with a jagged or worn blade. The flag has many holes in it that may be bullet holes. Materials: silk/textiles/paint.
Background: The flag was unveiled in 1914 as the flag for the Irish Citizen Army and depicts part of the constellation of Ursa Major, known as The Plough in Ireland and Britain.
The Irish Citizen Army was formed in 1913 to defend strikers from what they perceived as police brutality during the lockout of 1913, and in 1916 they were led by James Connolly to join the Irish Volunteers.
The flag provides a unique perspective to our understanding of 1916 through its link to the Irish Citizen Army and provides an insight into their mentality. Though a number of flags were flown in the Rising, including the Irish Republic flag above the GPO, the Irish Citizen Army Flag, of the Plough and the Stars, was flown over the Imperial Hotel. Connolly’s choice to fly the ‘starry plough’ not above the GPO but across the road above the Imperial Hotel is significant as it signals intent not at the British State but at the old rival of Irish Transport and General Workers Union’s, William Martin Murphy. This highlights a longer chronology to the Easter Rising and links back to previous movements.
The ICA was also significant in including women in the rebellion; it is estimated that thirty ICA women took part in the rising and many of the women that did fight were in the key ICA garrisons of City Hall and St Stephen’s Green.
The flag offers a unique contribution to our understanding of the Rising as it highlights the coming together of different factions of Irish politics, as the ICA joined the Irish Volunteers. It also highlights the role the ICA would have taken during the Rising, and the background of one of the signatories of the Proclamation James Connolly.