Royal Irish Regiment parade in Ballymena promises to be day to remember

The Royal Irish Regiment will exercise the Freedom of Ballymena which dates back to 1994
The Royal Irish Regiment will exercise the Freedom of Ballymena which dates back to 1994

The regiment will exercise its Freedom of the town – stretching back to 1994 – for a parade before laying up The 1st Battalion's Colours in St Patrick's Church.

Guards will be formed from the 1st and 2nd Battalions, the regimental associations and the affiliated cadet battalions and detachments.

The parade will also be supported by the Regimental Mascot, the Band of The Royal Irish Regiment, the Bugles, Pipes and Drums of both battalions and Campbell College Pipes and Drums.

It is a fitting honour for the regiment to reaffirm its links to the town that was for so long its home.

The Royal Ulster Rifles, The North Irish Brigade, The Royal Irish Rangers and The Royal Irish Regiment all had their headquarters and depots in St Patrick’s Barracks. Many of those on parade or watching on from the crowded streets will have trained or served in Ballymena and others were born and raised there.

Lt Col Andy Bourne, Commanding Officer, The 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment, said: “We return to Ballymena, having been honoured with its Freedom since 1994, to lay up our old Stand of Colours. This event marks the significance of the link between the town and the regiment.

"This is a momentous occasion for The Royal Irish Regiment and those taking part in the parade will feel an enormous sense of pride in themselves and their regiment. It will be a day they remember for the rest of their careers.”

The event, which is supported by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, takes place from 10am onwards with a range of free children’s entertainment. The parade is due to set off at 11am.

The Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Alderman Gerardine Mulvenna, said: “Council is delighted to be supporting this event in Ballymena which is a fitting recognition of The Royal Irish Regiment and its antecedents, who adopted St. Patrick’s as their Regimental home.

"Ballymena is a town steeped in military history and tradition, and this is an opportunity to show support for our brave service personnel and thank them for all that they do.”

The 1st Battalion have recently returned from United Nations Peacekeeping operations in Mali and more recently, training in Kenya. They also had the privilege of parading through the streets of London for the Coronation of Their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla.

As both the 1st and 2nd Battalions now dedicate themselves to the UK’s training support to the Armed Forces of Ukraine, this is a perfect opportunity for the extended Regimental family to gather.

Infantry Colours are the spirit that binds the Regiment together and serve as a reminder of the sacrifices made, not just by the soldiers, but also by the families and friends of service personnel and those veterans who have similarly served under them.

The Colours, which were presented in June 1996 and officially marched off parade for the final time in front of thousands of spectators at Titanic Slipway, Belfast, on September 22, 2018, will now be safely accommodated in the heart of Ballymena.