Royal Irish Regiment (1992)

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For the regiment of the same name, disbanded in 1922, see Royal Irish Regiment (1684–1922)
Royal Irish Regiment (27th (Inniskilling) 83rd and 87th and Ulster Defence Regiment)
Flag of the Royal Irish Regiment
Active 1 July 1992–present
1689 (antecedents)
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Branch  British Army
Type Line Infantry
Role 1st Battalion – Light infantry
2nd Battalion – Light infantry (Army Reserve)[1]
Size Two battalions
Part of Prince of Wales' Division
Garrison/HQ RHQ – Holywood
1st Battalion – Ternhill
2nd Battalion – Portadown
Motto "Faugh A Ballagh" (Irish)
"Clear the Way"
Colours Green, Red, Blue, Black
March Quick – Killaloe
Slow – Eileen Alannah
Mascot Irish Wolfhound (Brian Boru VIII)
Anniversaries Barrosa Day, 5 March; Somme Day, 1 July
Engagements Kosovo War, Sierra Leone Civil War, Operation Banner, 2nd Gulf War, War in Afghanistan
1 R IRISH: Lt Col Shannon [2]
2 R IRISH: Lt Col Owen Lyttle
Colonel in Chief HRH The Duke of York
Colonel of
the Regiment
Brigadier Joseph O'Sullivan
Lt Col Tim Collins OBE
Tactical Recognition Flash RIRISH TRF small.jpg
Tartan Saffron (pipes)
Hackle Green
From Royal Irish Rangers
Abbreviation R IRISH

The Royal Irish Regiment (27th (Inniskilling) 83rd and 87th and Ulster Defence Regiment) (R IRISH) is an infantry regiment of the British Army. The regiment was founded in 1992 through the amalgamation of the Royal Irish Rangers and the Ulster Defence Regiment. Their oldest predecessor; the 27th Regiment of Foot; was first raised in June 1689 to fight in the Williamite War in Ireland. Other notable regiments in their lineage include the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, Royal Irish Rifles and the Royal Irish Fusiliers (Princess Victoria's).

The motto of the regiment is Faugh A Ballagh (Modern Irish: Fág an Bealach), derived from the Irish Gaelic phrase for "Clear the Way". This originates from the Peninsular War, when Ensign Edward Keogh of the 87th Regiment of Foot let out the cry while capturing a French Imperial Eagle at the Battle of Barrosa. The Regimental Headquarters of the Royal Irish Regiment has been Palace Barracks, Holywood in County Down, Northern Ireland since moving there in 2008.

1992 creation

With an antecedence reaching back to 1688, the regiment was formed in 1992. The creation followed the Options for Change proposals which recommended the amalgamation of the Royal Irish Rangers and the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR). Most of the membership of the new regiment came from the UDR. This produced an overwhelmingly Ulster Protestant regiment with eleven battalions:

  • Regular Army – General Service
    • 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment
    • 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment
  • Territorial Army
    • 4th Battalion, Royal Irish Rangers
    • 5th Battalion, Royal Irish Rangers
  • Regular Army — Northern Ireland Resident Battalions (Home Service)

The Home Service battalions, permanently based in Northern Ireland, filled the role formerly occupied by the UDR, assisting the Royal Ulster Constabulary (with a focus on combatting militant Irish republicanism), in Northern Ireland during Operation Banner. The 1st and 2nd Battalions could serve worldwide as general service battalions.

Because of its size, the regiment was removed from the King's Division and existed within its own Division of infantry. In 1993, the two regular battalions were amalgamated as 1 R IRISH. In 2001, the number of Home Service battalions reduced to three:

  • 2nd Battalion — amalgamation of 7th and 9th Battalions
  • 3rd Battalion — amalgamation of 3rd and 8th Battalions[3]
  • 4th Battalion — amalgamation of 4th and 5th Battalions

Current organisation

In 2005, the British government announced the end of Operation Banner, and with it the disbandment of the Home Service battalions. These were declared non-operational in October 2006, and disbanded in July 2007. At the same time, the Royal Irish Rangers, then serving as the TA battalion, was renamed as 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment. Today, the Royal Irish Regiment encompasses:

  • 1st Battalion — General Service
  • 2nd Battalion — Army Reserve

Its regimental Headquarters was, until summer 2007, at St Patrick's Barracks, Ballymena, and is now at Palace Barracks, Holywood, Belfast.


In 2004, a major restructuring of the infantry was announced. It recommended, inter alia, that all the remaining single battalion infantry regiments would be amalgamated. Under normal circumstances, this would have put the Royal Irish Regiment at risk but because of its unique status providing the home defence for Northern Ireland, and as the only remaining Irish line infantry regiment, it was decided to leave the Royal Irish Regiment as it was. This allowed a 'line infantry footprint' to remain in Northern Ireland.

In Northern Ireland the regiment continues to recruit from all sections of the population and both sides of the sectarian divide. In common with other line infantry regiments it has recruited many non-UK personnel, particularly from across the border in the Republic of Ireland, which permits its citizens to enlist in the British forces but forbids active recruiting on its territory.[citation needed]

The regiment also recruits from overseas countries such as South Africa, Zimbabwe, Fiji and from around the Caribbean.

Current structure

1st Battalion

The 1st Battalion, as part of the restructuring of the infantry, has assumed a fixed role as a light role battalion, rotating with two other line infantry/rifles battalions in an air assault role as part of 16 Air Assault Brigade. As part of this, the battalion moved from Fort George, Inverness to Clive Barracks in Ternhill in 2007. In September 2008 the battalion completed a tour in the Operational Mentoring and Liaison role in Afghanistan (Op HERRICK VIII) and returned to Shropshire, following which it became the first unit in the British Army to receive three Conspicuous Gallantry Crosses (CGC) in a single operation. The battalion has since deployed again to Afghanistan, with 16 Air Assault in HERRICK XIII.[4][5][6] Under Army 2020, the battalion will remain at Tern Hill but it will not remain part of 16 AA BDE.[7] Instead, it will be given a light protected mobility role.[8]

Northern Ireland Resident Battalions (Home Service)

The Provisional Irish Republican Army (usually abbreviated to PIRA in British military parlance at the time[9]) announced an end to its armed campaign in the summer of 2005. In response the United Kingdom government announced military cuts which included the Royal Irish Regiment. The Home Service (HS) Battalions of the Regiment were told that they would be disbanded. In March 2006, a redundancy package was announced and they ceased to be operational in October that year. On 1 August 2007 Operation Banner, the military support to the civilian police (the Police Service of Northern Ireland, PSNI) in Northern Ireland ended, and the three HS battalions were disbanded.[10]

The Home Service battalions were awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross (CGC) by Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom in Belfast on 6 October 2006.[11] It is the first time the gallantry decoration, second in precedence only to the Victoria Cross, has been awarded to a military unit rather than to an individual member of the armed forces. This was in addition to the many gallantry awards earned by its personnel during the campaign.

The 1st Battalion, other than accepting transfers of willing Home Service soldiers into its order of battle, was unaffected by these disbandments. As part of the reduction of British Army strength in Northern Ireland to a conventional garrison, the regimental headquarters (RHQ) in Ballymena was designated for closure. It closed in the summer of 2008, with Royal Irish RHQ moving to Palace Barracks in Belfast. The Royal Irish band, the largest musical ensemble in the British Army, was reduced in size and transferred to the Territorial Army.

2nd Battalion (previously the Rangers)

Individual members of the Rangers served on Operation TELIC in the Iraq War. They served with 1 R IRISH during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and, inter alia, the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment (PWRR) in Al Amarrah and in other areas of Iraq with 1 R IRISH and The London Regiment.

Under Army 2020, it will be an Army Reserve light infantry battalion under the 7th Infantry Brigade and not under the 16th Air Assault Brigade.[8]

Recent deployments

The 1st Battalion was a part of 16 Air Assault Brigade until being moved to 160 Brigade in January 2015 as a light Mechanized Battalion.

In 2000 in Sierra Leone, while deployed to train government troops, eleven Royal Irish soldiers and their local army liaison officer were kidnapped by the West Side Boys insurgents. Five hostages were later released and the remaining six were freed by the Special Air Service and The Parachute Regiment during Operation BARRAS, with the West Side Boys suffering severe casualties in the action.[12]

1 R IRISH deployed to Iraq at the beginning of Operation Telic in March 2003, where they carried out operations in the south of the country. Its now-retired Commanding Officer, Lt Col Tim Collins was honoured with an Officer of the Order of the British Empire OBE for distinguished service.

1 R IRISH returned from six months in Iraq on Op TELIC 6/7 where they served in the Shaibah Logistics Base near Basra. Although the majority of the Battalion was deployed around the MND(SE) area a single Company was deployed to Baghdad.

Three platoons of 1 R IRISH (Barrosa, Somme and Ranger Platoons) deployed to Afghanistan in 2006, as part of 16 Air Assault Brigade and supported 3rd Parachute Regiment, the later forming 9 Platoon, C Coy, 3 PARA. They were involved in some of the heaviest fighting during HERRICK IV. Lance Corporal Paul Muirhead, Lance Corporal Luke McCulloch and Ranger Anare Draiva were killed by the Taliban during HERRICK IV.

1 R IRISH and 2 R IRISH deployed to Afghanistan in 2008, as part of 16 Air Assault Brigade. 1 R IRISH provided Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams (OMLTs) to assist in training the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP), and 2 R IRISH were the first Territorial Army company strength grouping to provide OMLT training from NATO forces. They were also the first TA Company to fully man Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) within the green zone. One company of the 1st Battalion, attached to 2 PARA, named Ranger Company, undertook offensive operations in the Sangin area of Helmand Province. 1 R IRISH lost Ranger Justin Cupples to an improvised explosive device (IED) during HERRICK VIII.

1 and 2 R IRISH again deployed with 16 Air Assault Brigade to Afghanistan on HERRICK XIII from September 2010. Based in the southern part of Helmand, they lost three soldiers during their operational tour. 1 R IRISH lost Lance Corporal Stephen McKee, Ranger Aaron McCormick and Ranger David Dalzell during HERRICK XIII.

Operational honours



  • Lieutenant Colonel Colin Richard James WEIR, MBE, Distinguished Service Order[15]
  • Lance Corporal Ratu Apenisa Qalitakivuna, Military Cross[15]
  • Acting Sergeant Alwyn John Stevens, Conspicuous Gallantry Cross[16]
  • Corporal Robert William Kerr McClurg, Conspicuous Gallantry Cross[16]
  • Lance Corporal Jone Bruce Toge, Conspicuous Gallantry Cross[16]
  • Captain Douglas Ricardo Beattie, Military Cross[17]
  • Captain David Bradley Rainey, Military Cross[16]
  • Sergeant Stephen McConnell, Military Cross[16]
  • Ranger Alan William Owens, Military Cross[16]*

Elizabeth Cross and Memorial Scrolls

Up to May 2010, 32 Elizabeth Cross and Memorial Scrolls have been issued to the families of Royal Irish personnel.[18]

Other information

In memory of a 2006 battle in the Afghan town of Musa Qala, a new Regimental March, composed by Chris Attrill and commissioned by Larne Borough Council, was given to the regiment on Saturday 1 November 2008 in Larne, County Antrim during an event in which the regiment was also presented with the 'Freedom of the Borough'. This gives the regiment the right to march through the town with "flags flying, bands playing and bayonets fixed". The March was named Musa Qala.[19]

Order of precedence

Preceded by
Royal Welsh
Infantry Order of Precedence Succeeded by
The Parachute Regiment


Royal Irish Regiment (27th (Inniskilling) 83rd and 87th and Ulster Defence Regiment Conspicuous Gallantry Cross) The Royal Irish Rangers (27th (Inniskilling) 83rd and 87th) The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers The 27th (Inniskilling) Regiment of Foot
The 108th Regiment of Foot (Madras Infantry)
The Royal Ulster Rifles The 83rd (County of Dublin) Regiment of Foot
The 86th (Royal County Down) Regiment of Foot
The Royal Irish Fusiliers (Princess Victoria's) The 87th (Royal Irish Fusiliers) Regiment of Foot
The 89th (The Princess Victoria's) Regiment of Foot
The Ulster Defence Regiment



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  19. Freedom of the Borough

External links