Pics by CLIFF DONALDSON, MIKE 0'NEILL and KELVIN BOYES/PRESSEYE
HUNDREDS of local people braved the wind and rain to support the Royal Irish Regiment as it received the Freedom of the City of Lisburn last Saturday afternoon, followed by a parade through the City Centre.
Lisburn City Council confers the Freedom of the City on the Royal Irish Regiment at a ceremony at Lagan Valley Island followed by a parade in Lisburn. Lisburn City Mayor Paul Porter, right presents the Freedom of the City scroll to It General Sir Philip Trousdell KBE CB.
The Regiment, which has recently returned from a six month tour of Afghanistan, received the highest honour the city can confer at a special meeting of Lisburn Council at Lagan Valley Island, in recognition of their 'invaluable and distinguished service to the Nation throughout the world, particularly in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan'.
During their recent six month tour of duty in Afghanistan the Regiment, which was deployed to an exceptionally hostile environment in Helmand Province controlled by insurgents, faced daily fire fights during each patrol, suffering 16 serious casualties, and three fatalities.
Leading the parade. US2111-548cd
Royal Irish Regiment soldiers parade through Lisburn. US2111-553cd
However, their "exceptional courage, determination and Irish fighting spirit" saw them, by the end of their tour, able to patrol the Nad-e-Ali District, where they were based, without a shot being fired.
Invited guests, including the Lord Lieutenant of County Antrim, Mrs. Joan Christie, the Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, First Minister Peter Robinson, Senior Officers from the Regiment and fellow Freemen watched as Colonel of the Regiment, Lieutenant General Sir Philip Trousdell, accepted the Grant of the Freedom of the City from Lisburn's Mayor, Councillor Paul Porter and signed the roll of Honorary Freemen, in the presence of Lisburn's newly elected Council members.
Lieutenant General Trousdell said it was a "huge honour" for The Royal Irish Regiment.
He added: "It is a very public demonstration of the trust and high regard in which the people of the City of Lisburn hold the Regiment. For the soldiers of the Regiment, both past and present, it provides an acknowledgement of their service, dedication and, in some instances, ultimate sacrifice."
Following the Special Meeting, the Mayor addressed the troops before he, along with the Lord Lieutenant and General Trousdell, inspected the soldiers and presented each with a gift commemorating the occasion.
The Parade, led by the Band of the Royal Irish and representing members of the first and second battalions of the regiment and old comrades, moved off from Lagan Valley Island through the City Centre, where it was met with applause from the large number of spectators who lined the streets, waiting patiently in the rain, to show their support.
The parade was particularly poignant as it passed the City's War Memorial in Castle Street. The Lord Lieutenant, Mayor, General Trousdell and Chief Executive took the Salute, before the Parade returned to Lagan Valley Island.
Secretary of State Owen Paterson, First Minister Peter Robinson and Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson applaud as the parade gets underway.
To commemorate the occasion, the Mayoress, Mrs. Nicola Porter, set off a balloon release and the Mayor and General Trousdell, as is custom, planted a Persian Ironwood tree in the grounds of Lagan Valley Island.
Guests were then invited to attend a Civic Dinner in the Island Hall.
The Mayor addressed the audience, emphasising the highest regard that the Regiment was held in right across Lisburn and paid tribute to those soldiers who had lost their lives, both at home and abroad, within the Regiment and its antecedent regiments, over three centuries. The Mayor paid particular tribute to the courage and bravery of the Regiment in Northern Ireland and, more recently, in Iraq and Afghanistan in the battle against global terrorism. He also praised the families of Regimental members for the sacrifices they have made in support of their loved ones.
A specially-commissioned presentational video was also screened, depicting military life on the front line. Glowing testimonials were provided by many, including the Secretary of State and Lord Robin Eames, former Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh. On behalf of the City, the Mayor presented General Trousdell with a bronze sculpture, created by Mr John Sherlock, depicting a Royal Irish soldier.
In a glowing tribute to his soldiers, General Trousdell spoke of his pride in the Royal Irish Regiment and their invaluable contribution to the military effort and thanked the City for its highest honour, before presenting a gift to the Council, on behalf of the Regiment, to mark the occasion.
During the Reception, Councillor Ronnie Crawford, who originally proposed the Conferment of the Freedom of the City, spoke of his delight at the day's events and detailed the illustrious history of the Regiment and its influences worldwide before fellow Freeman, Mr. Ivan Davis, echoed the sentiments of the previous speakers and concluded the formal proceedings of the evening.