1 R IRISH invited to 10 Downing Street

1 R IRISH Shamrock Brian Boru mascot
Prime Minister receiving his shamrock.

From Shaibah Logistics base in Afghanistan to Downing Street.

While on the Prime Minister’s traditional visit to British troops in Iraq in 2005, Mr Tony Blair visited the 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment in the Shaibah Logistics Base where the Battalion was deployed as the Rear Operations Battle Group responsible for base security and, amongst many other things, escort tasks. During the course of conversation with members of the Warrant Officers and Sergeants Mess, one of the Company Sergeant Majors, WOII Somerville, joked that as the Battalion had shown him hospitality in their home, he really should return the favour and invite some of the Battalion to his home. The Prime Minister turned to his aides and said that it was something to look into and then replied that he would see what could be done.

Downing StMr Blair and his retinue departed and nothing more was thought of this chance remark until the Battalion was back in its UK base, Fort George near Inverness. The Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Michael McGovern*, suddenly announced that a group of 20 members from the Battalion was invited to the official residence and office of the Prime Minister - Number 10 Downing Street. It was decided that the group would represent the whole Battalion, including those who had been on the Rear Party in the UK. The date selected was Tuesday 14 March 2006, which was sufficiently close to 17 March to include a flavour of Saint Patrick's Day in the visit. The party, including the Regimental Mascot Brian Boru, travelled to London the day before, and spent the night at the Union Jack Club.

Downing StThe next morning, the Regimental Sergeant Major, WOI Bradley, marched the party, complete with a Piper and Brian Boru, from the Ministry of Defence Main Building across Whitehall and into Downing Street as the police halted the traffic. The Regiment was welcomed to Downing Street by the Secretary of State for Defence, Mr John Reid, and the Minister of State for the Armed Forces, Mr Adam Ingram. The group was then given a tour of Number 10 before the Guinness was produced. The Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair, joined the party for over an hour and a photograph was taken with the Regimental group at the cabinet table while shamrock was presented to the ministerial team who had hosted the visit.

It was a unique and historic experience for the Regiment.

Later, Brigadier Michael McGovern.