Historic Gal Gréine banner returns to Dublin 100 years on

Emblem of Na Fianna Éireann which belonged to Countess Markievicz is in Ireland on loan

A historic banner known as the "Gal Gréine", seized by the British authorities in Dublin in 1916, has returned to City Hall on loan from the Imperial War Museum in London.

The banner was owned by Countess Markievicz during the Rising and hung from her Dublin home in 1916.

The Gal Gréine, or sunburst in English, is the emblem of Na Fianna Éireann.

The organisation was founded in 1902 in Belfast by Bulmer Hobson as a junior hurling league to promote the study of the Irish language, but it did not survive Hobson’s later relocation to Dublin.


On August 16th, 1909, the Irish National Boy Scouts changed their name to Na Fianna Éireann, with Hobson as president, Markievicz as vice-president and Padraig Ó Riain as secretary.

The sunburst emblem on the banner was said to go back to the time of Fionn Mac Cumhaill and the original Fianna.

War trophy

It was taken as a war trophy by the British army and became the property of the Royal Collection Trust at Windsor Castle, going on permanent loan to the Imperial War Museum in 1936, where it has featured as part of its first World War exhibition.

It will be in Dublin until August 31st as a central element of the city council’s 1916 centenary commemorations.

Newly elected Fianna Fáil TD Jim O’Callaghan welcomed its return. As a city councillor, he proposed the council enter negotiations with the museum on the matter.

Key artefacts

Mr O’Callaghan said he had seen the banner in the museum where many other important Irish artefacts, including Patrick Pearse’s letter of surrender, were housed.

The Royal Collection Trust has loaned other items, some unrelated to 1916, to both the National Gallery of Ireland and the National Museum at Collins Barracks.

The loan to the National Gallery includes drawings by Leonardo da Vinci.

Lord Mayor of Dublin Críona Ní Dhálaigh said she was delighted to formally welcome the banner back to Dublin.

“It is very appropriate that this historical artefact forms part of the 1916 Exhibition in City Hall,” she said.

The free exhibition can be viewed until the end of August.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist