In 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.