THE Royal Irish Regiment have been given the Freedom of the Borough of Ballymoney.
The formal ceremony took place on Saturday in the Town Hall attended by the Colonel of the Regiment, Lieutenant General Sir Philip Trousdell who was accompanied by the Deputy Colonel - Colonel Mark Campbell. The Lord Lieutenant for County Antrim, Mrs. Joan Christie, was also present.
Alderman and Councillors as well as special guests including Dr. Ian Paisley, (Lord Bannside) a recipient of the Freedom of the Borough honour in the year 2000, the MP for North Antrim, Ian Paisley Junior, MLA’s and another Honorary Freeman, Mrs. Molly Holmes, attended the ceremony the basis for which was laid during a council meeting of January 4, 2011 when the motion was passed.
The Royal Irish Regiment are the fourth organisation to have been accorded the Freedom. In June 1983, the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Royal Ulster Constabulary Reserve were honoured followed by the Royal British Legion in 1997 and the Northern Ireland Fire Brigade in 2001. The only two other recipients were motor bike riders, the late Joey and Robert Dunlop.
Saturday’s ceremony went without a hitch and the outdoor part proved an impressive spectacle and only temporarily interrupted by a light shower. That didn’t spoil the occasion for the thousands of spectators who lined the route to give warm applause to members of the First and Second Battalions along with members of the Royal British Legion who marched proudly behind the Standard Bearers as well as the pipes and drums of the Regimental band.
Mrs. Christie, accompanied by the Mayor, inspected the parade before returning to the Town Hall where the 90 guests enjoyed lunch.
The Mayor said the granting of the award was in acknowledgement and thanks to those who had served and continued to serve their country with great distinction both at home and abroad.
He said it was the highest honour the council could bestow and it was fitting that it should be awarded to the Royal Irish Regiment. It was, he said, a representation of a public demonstration of support for their soldiers who carried out their tasks in demanding conditions and often with great personal sacrifice.
Sir Philip Trousdell described it as an enormous honour adding that it was a rare and ancient honour as well as a sign of mutual trust and respect/
“This is a most significant day in our long history,” Sir Philip said.
The Regiment which is more than 300 years old is now based in Shropshire.