Thousands of people turned out at Titanic Slipways in Belfast on Saturday to watch the first public presentation of military colours to the Royal Irish Regiment to take place in Northern Ireland.
Senior Army personnel described the event as a momentous occasion that will be remembered for a long time.
More than 6,500 people packed into the specially constructed parade ground for the presentation of colours, which involved hundreds of soldiers from the RIR’s 1st and 2nd Battalions.
Colours are presented to regiments every 25 years, and represent both their history and their future.
Presenting the new colours, HRH The Duke of York, colonel in chief of the RIR, described the regiment’s history as “proud and honourable”.
During a short address to the regiment and spectators, Prince Andrew said: “Today, I would like to wish every single member of this fantastic regiment every good fortune as they clear the way for so much that is important not only to Her Majesty but also to the United Kingdom.
“I wish you every continued success as you go about your duties and I now charge you to protect and follow the colours as they are intended.”
He concluded by saying the Royal Irish motto, Faugh a Ballagh, which means “clear the way”.
The new colours, which recognise the RIR’s service in Iraq in 2003 and the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross presented to it in 2006, were consecrated by Rev Dr David Coulter, chaplain general to HM Land Forces, before being presented and paraded through the ranks.
The Belfast man, undertaking his last official engagement before leaving the Army later this year, said: “I have the privilege of consecrating the colours. They then become sacred, so everywhere they are taken they are guarded, protected, looked after, and when they finish their time in service they are laid up in a sacred place to fade away.
“It is a great privilege to be able to say prayers in front of those colours and to consecrate them for all time.”
The commanding officer of 1 Royal Irish, Lieutenant Colonel Matt Lewis, said it was “a big honour” to have HRH The Duke of York present the new colours to the regiment on behalf of Her Majesty The Queen.
The audience included a number of former members of the regiment, including Ulster Unionist Party MLAs Doug Beattie MC and Andy Allen who praised the event.
Brigadier (Retired) Joe O’Sullivan, honorary colonel of the Royal Irish Regiment described it as an “historic moment”.
“Today’s presentation of colours ceremony marked another historic moment for the regiment that will be remembered by all involved for a long time to come,” he said.
“I am extremely proud of the commitment, determination and professionalism shown by all on parade today.”
The parade commander, Brigadier Mike Murdoch, deputy colonel of the Royal Irish Regiment, added: “For us to receive our new colours in Northern Ireland as an Irish infantry regiment is a tremendous honour.”