Belfast Telegraph

Troops to get showgrounds welcome

A ticketed event is to be held instead of a military parade through Belfast to recognise troops who served in Afghanistan.

The free demonstration will be staged at showgrounds in the city on October 7 and up to 3,500 members of the public are expected to attend.

Three hundred soldiers from the 1st Battalion Irish Guards and the Royal Irish Regiment will hold a review and service. The Ministry of Defence ruled out a homecoming parade because of "post-operational duties" after nationalists on Belfast City Council opposed a march through the city centre.

A MoD spokesman said: "This is a very respectful and meaningful event being hosted by Belfast City Council to recognise the valour and service of personnel from the Irish Guards and the Royal Irish Regiment on operations overseas.

"We have been in discussions and planning with Belfast City Council and this event is now possible through the good offices of Belfast and the availability of personnel at an appropriate time in their busy schedules."

Priority in allocating tickets for the Royal Ulster Agricultural Showgrounds event in Balmoral will be given to Belfast residents. The 300 soldiers on parade will include both regimental mascots, regimental colours, the corps of drums of the 1st (NI) Battalion Army Cadet Force (affiliated to the Irish Guards), the Royal Irish Regiment and pipes and drums from both regiments.

Both regiments served together as part of 16 Air Assault Brigade in Afghanistan and had been invited to parade in Belfast following their return from operations in the spring. However, commitments meant they were unable to combine dates in their diaries until now.

Soldiers will travel from their home bases in both Windsor and Tern Hill in Shropshire for this event. The event will include the presentation of commemorative medallions to military personnel by Belfast's deputy Lord Mayor, Alderman Ruth Patterson.

A musical programme and exhibition of armoured vehicles will run from 2pm at designated areas within the grounds.

A service of thanksgiving for the soldiers was held at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast on May 22. There were protests at a military parade through the city in 2008.

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