Parade reconnects RIR with families of serving soldiers

Lieutenant Colonel Matt Lewis.
Lieutenant Colonel Matt Lewis.

Holding the Presentation of Colours parade in Belfast was a great way for the Royal Irish Regiment to reconnect with the families of its soldiers, the commanding officer of 1 Royal Irish said.

Lieutenant Colonel Matt Lewis said today’s parade at Titanic Slipways was also “a unifying opportunity for people across the British Isles.”

More than 6,000 people packed into a specially-constructed parade ground at Titanic Slipways for the presentation of the new colours, which recognise the valour of the regiment and its antecedents over hundreds of years.

Explaining the significance of the presentation by HRH The Duke of York, Lieutenant Colonel Lewis said: “Every 25 years we have an opportunity like this to bring the entire regiment together and I think it’s important we’ve done it here in Belfast. It reconnects us with the families of the soldiers that are here, but also I think it is a unifying opportunity for people across the British Isles. We have soldiers from the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, across the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth that can focus their attentions today here is Belfast for a coming together of the whole regiment.

“This is the first time this has happened in public in Northern Ireland and I think that’s why it’s of such great significance for us all today.

“It is a big honour, but for me as commanding officer this is about my people, about the guys and giving them an opportunity to show their families what they do.”

Some 80% of RIR troops (1st and 2nd Battalions) come from Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, with the remainder made up of personnel from GB and several Commonwealth nations.

“What forges us together is this common ethos which is uniquely Irish and is made up of the best facets of both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland,” Lieutenant Colonel Lewis continued.

“Today is also a coming together of lots of antecedent regimental histories. This is the first time the Royal Irish Regiment has had both colours presented to it at the same time.

“Up until this point the 1st and 2nd battalions of the Royal Irish have been carrying colours from different antecedent regiments, so this is the first time they’ll be stepping off together with one common set of colours.”