The cookie settings on this website are set to ‘allow all cookies’. Leaving your settings to ‘allow all cookies’ means you consent to a website remembering your preferences and generally enhancing the user experience. If you prefer a website to not remember your preferences, you can change your settings at any time by changing the privacy settings of your browser.

Find out more about cookies >

Reserve Forces & Cadets Association
Northern Ireland



14 March 2017

Thiepval Barracks, Lisburn, reverberated to the skirl of pipes as over 250 Reservists from the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Irish Regiment, assembled for their annual Shamrock Presentation parade for St. Patrick’s Day.  It was held a week early as the 1st Battalion are deployed in Kabul, Afghanistan and 2nd Battalion did not wish to conflict with their parade.

The Soldiers were accompanied on parade by a large Guard of old Comrades representing most of the antecedent Irish Regiments and a more youthful cohort of over 70 Royal Irish and Irish Guards Army Cadets, with music provided by the Regimental Band and the Battalion’s Bugles, Pipes and Drums.

The shamrock presentation parade is a conspicuous event in the Battalion’s annual programme, and originates back to the Second Boer War at the turn of the 20th century when Queen Victoria instructed all ranks of her Irish Regiments to wear, as a distinction, a sprig of shamrock in their head dress, to commemorate the gallantry of her Irish soldiers during the Boer War in South Africa.

On 5 March 1900, after news of the particularly bloody Boer War battle which resulted in the relief of Ladysmith, Queen Victoria telegraphed the following message to her victorious troops, "I have heard with the deepest concern of the heavy losses sustained by my brave Irish soldiers." On 14 March 1900 Queen Victoria issued the following instruction: "Her Majesty the Queen is pleased to order that in future, upon Saint Patrick's Day, all ranks of her Irish Regiments shall wear, as a distinction, a sprig of shamrock in their head dress, to commemorate the gallantry of her Irish soldiers during the recent battles in South Africa."

A further mark of appreciation for the bravery of Irish troops in South Africa was accorded when, a short while later, the Queen also deemed it appropriate that an Irish regiment of Foot Guards be formed, and to be designated the 'Irish Guards'.

Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant for County Antrim, Mrs Joan Christie OBE, inspected the parade and assisted with the presentation of the shamrocks to her Cadets and their families, then took time to reflect on the parade.


Brigadier Joe O’Sullivan presented various pendants awards to a number of soldiers who have excelled during the year. Warrant Officer 2 Timmy Clarke from Belfast received both an Eagle Award in recognition of his support to Regimental Football as well as his 22 year service pendant while Captain ‘Rocky’ Mallon received his Regimental Colours for his support to Infantry Skiing.  A number of other soldiers also received their Volunteer Reserve Service Medal from the Lord Lieutenant Mrs Christie.

Addressing the soldiers, families and guests she complimented the soldiers on their turn-out and commitment:

 “The presentation of the shamrock embodies the spirit and gallantry of the Irish soldier. Of course since the South African War at the turn of the 20th century, the loyal service and courage of the Irish soldier has been called on numerous times – from the Great War to World War 2, to Korea, to the Balkans and to Northern Ireland, as well as a myriad of smaller conflicts in between.

“The soldiers of the 1st and 2nd Battalions The Royal Irish Regiment have being adding to a proud tradition, especially during the last decade of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“2 Royal Irish is one of the best recruited Army Reserve battalions that is at the forefront of the changes being rolled out across the British Army, and I sense that you relish the challenges arising. Just looking at the Battalion’s programme over the last year makes me breathless – with soldiers deploying to 13 overseas countries on four continents; on a range of operations, Defence Engagement activities and exercises. Outside the operational tours in Afghanistan and Cyprus, the Battalion has also deployed personnel on overseas training teams from East Africa to Eastern Europe in the last two and half years. With this sort of tempo we could be forgiven for forgetting that 2 Royal Irish is a part-time Army Reserve battalion!”

She went on to praise those who support the Army Reserves, saying:

“However this level of commitment would not be possible without the continued support of your families, friends and employers. I wholeheartedly thank them for their encouragement and backing.”

At the conclusion to the parade, over 900 supporters cheered the Battalion, Veterans and Cadets as they marched off to the Regimental March, “Killaloe”.