Northern Ireland

RIR given freedom of Ballymoney

The Royal Irish Regiment has been granted the freedom of Ballymoney.

Hundreds of people lined the streets to watch soldiers from the regiment march through the town after receiving the honour at a special ceremony.

Soldiers from both the 1st Battalion, based at Clive Barracks, Shropshire and the 2nd Battalion were honoured along with veterans' associations.

Ballymoney Borough Council has conferred the title only six times since 1973.

Lord Bannside
Former DUP leader Lord Bannside was among those who watched the parade in Ballymoney

The recipients include the RUC, the fire brigade and motorcycle racing brothers Robert and Joey Dunlop.

Another former recipient, the former DUP leader and North Antrim MP Ian Paisley, was among those who turned out to watch the ceremony on Saturday.‪

Lieutenant General Sir Philip Trousdell said the soldiers appreciated the show of support.

"Around three years ago when we came home from Afghanistan, we had a welcome home parade in Ballymena," he said.

"Afterwards I talked to a young soldier who had just marched through packed streets of cheering crowds, and I asked what it meant to him. He said, 'Sir, I didn't know anybody cared'.

"This is a demonstration of community support, and the soldiers are very involved in that because this is where they come from, this is home."

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