The Starry Plough and the Irish Citizen Army

In 1913 police attacked striking workers who were demonstrating in Dublin, killing two. Trade union leaders decided to establish a para-military organisation - the 'Irish Citizen Army' - to protect the workers. Although the ICA was initially armed only with batons it soon acquired firearms and munitions.

[The Starry Plough, 1914]
[Click on this flag for an enlarged image.]

Above: The original Starry Plough of 1914 (left) and the statue of James Connolly in front of Liberty Hall, Dublin (right).

The Starry Plough was adopted as the army's flag in 1914: the plough and the stars symbolising the present and the future of the working class respectively. The ICA participated in the 1916 rising at which time the British army captured the flag. It was returned to Ireland in 1966 and is now preserved in the National Museum of Ireland.

The Starry Plough and labour movement

[The Starry Plough, 1934-]
[Click on this flag for an enlarged image.]

Left: The contemporary Starry Plough.

In 1934 a simplified version of the Starry Plough was designed for use by the country's largest trade union, the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union (now SIPTU), and this came to be generally accepted as the flag of the Irish trade union and labour movement as a whole.

Right: The Starry Plough of 1914 and the modern Starry Plough can both be seen on a banner of the postal workers' union (in the upper-left and lower-right corners respectively).

[Trade union banner]