RIR Homecoming

img_0436In just a couple of weeks, the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Regiment will complete their six month tour of duty in Afghanistan and families and friends await their homecoming with much anticipation. But a controversy has arisen with regard to a homecoming parade in Enniskillen.

When I spent a couple of days with the regiment at their base in Shropshire prior to their deployment, the Commanding Officer, Lt Col Colin Weir, expressed his hope that a homecoming parade would be possible in Enniskillen because of the historic connections between the regiment and the town.

The history of the Regiment is traced back to 20th June 1689 with raising of Tiffins’s Regiment of Foot (later to become the 27th or Inniskilling Regiment of Foot) which fought in the Williamite Wars. In its history and development, the regiment also incorporates the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

The Royal Irish Regiment is unique in the British Army. It consists of one Air Assault battalion (1 R IRISH), liable for service world wide, and one Reserve battalion (2 R IRISH) who are part-time soldiers based in Northern Ireland and provide its Reserve when required. Its officers and men come from both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

In recent months the RIR has operated in a most hostile theatre of conflict in Afghanistan, and they have served with great distinction. They deserve to be honoured by all sections of our community for the contribution which they have made to our safety and to the on-going development of a peaceful and stable society in Afghanistan. I hope that Enniskillen, along with other towns, gets the opportunity to acknowledge the service which these men have rendered.

Rob Bell and Martin Bashir

Here’s a great interview conducted by Martin Bashir in which he presses Rob Bell on the contents of his new book, Love Wins. Bell is obviously struggling, especially with this question from Bashir:

“You’re creating a Christian message that’s warm, kind, and popular for contemporary culture. . . . What you’ve done is you’re amending the gospel, the Christian message, so that it’s palatable to contemporary people who find, for example, the idea of hell and heaven very difficult to stomach. So here comes Rob Bell, he’s made a Christian gospel for you, and it’s perfectly palatable, it’s much easier to swallow. That’s what you’ve done, haven’t you?”

Andrew’s back

ireland-wing-andrew-trimbleIt’s been a frustrating and generally unsatisfactory Six Nations campaign for Ireland this year. The team has shown that it has the ability to score tries, but it also has the unfortunate knack of conceding too many penalties. The frustration reached new heights last weekend with the illegal Welsh try which cost Ireland the match and left Irish supporters speechless.

Now it’s England coming to Dublin this weekend to wrap up the championship and possibly a “grand slam”. Can Ireland burst the English balloon and restore some pride in the green jersey ahead of a World Cup campaign?

Ulster representation on the Irish team this year  has been minimal, but Andrew Trimble’s selection on the left wing for this final match is one which will gladden Ulstermen everywhere. His performances for Ulster in recent weeks have been excellent, and he deserves his place. Since he didn’t go to play for another Irish province, most Ulster supporters still consider the right winger, Tommy Bowe, as “one of us” in spite of his defection to the Ospreys. And as a Monaghan man he is also an Ulsterman by right.

So we look forward to the two Ulstermen, Andrew and Tommy, doing the business for Ireland. Is it too much to hope for an Irish win on the week of St Patrick’s Day and to send the English home suitably subdued?

Update: Ireland won by 24 points to 8 and both Ulstermen put in great performances!