Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations started early for the Royal Irish Regiment when they were presented with their shamrock at a Drumahead Service on Saturday.
More than 250 soldiers and “old comrades” from the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Irish Regiment were presented with their shamrock at a Drumhead Service and Parade in Thiepval Barracks, Lisburn.
During the presentation music was played by the Battalion’s Bugles, Pipes and Drums and the Army Cadet Corps of Drums bands.
The shamrock presentation originates back to the Second Boer War at the turn of the 20th century when Queen Victoria instructed all ranks of her Irish Regiments to wear, as a distinction, a sprig of shamrock in their head dress, to commemorate the gallantry of her Irish soldiers in South Africa.
Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of County Antrim, Mrs Joan Christie OBE, inspected the parade and assisted with the presentation of the shamrocks to soldiers and their families.
She said: “The presentation of the shamrock embodies the spirit and gallantry of the Irish soldier. Of course since the South African War at the turn of the 20th century, the loyal service and courage of the Irish soldier has been called on numerous times – from the Great War to World War 2, to Korea, to the Balkans and to Northern Ireland, as well as a myriad of smaller conflicts in between.
“The soldiers of the 1st and 2nd Battalions The Royal Irish Regiment have being adding to a proud tradition, especially during the last decade of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
At the end of the parade more than 1200 supporters cheered the Battalion as they marched off to the Regimental March, “Killaloe”.
Northern Ireland’s senior soldier Brigadier Ralph Wooddisse says the opportunities for Army reserves here continue to grow as recruiting opportunities are ramped up.
“The army is changing in terms of size and make-up as well as format and skill sets as we look to the challenges that are going to lie ahead,” he said.
“Northern Ireland is already playing its part in this as we see re-alignment of basing as well as growth within the reserve commitments. We are looking to see Northern Ireland playing an even bigger part in terms of recruitment.
“The regular army strength of 82,000 will constantly require a flow of recruits coming up through the ranks and the increased strength of UK reserves as well as its integration within the overall force will require young men and women of high calibre and in all ranks, “he added.
“In Northern Ireland we have strong support across the 2000 men and women who are committed to the reserves, we have good and ever developing relationships with employers and we have been able to consistently show how both regulars and reserves from NI rightly deserve the credit they have earned on deployments around the world.”