Shock As RIR Soldier Dies In Afghan Blast

Remembrance Sunday was marked across the UK yesterday, while in NI, it was particularly poignant following news that a soldier from 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment had died in an explosion in Afghanistan.

The Ministry of Defence said the as yet unnamed soldier - who was from County Londonderry - died when an improvised explosive device detonated while he was on patrol in Nad-e Ali, Helmand province.

The death of the 20-year-old soldier, whose name has not been released - but is thought to come from Macosquin, a village near Coleraine - raises the toll in Afghanistan since 2001 to 344.

Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson said he was deeply moved and saddened: "This death brings home the reality of war. Remembrance Sunday is not about the past, it's about the present.

"It's about the family in Northern Ireland who are now grieving the loss of their boy. I extend my deepest sympathies to them."

As the news came in, services were being held across NI, with even a senior civic representative from the Irish Republic attending one of Sunday's Poppy Day commemorations.

The Mayor of Drogheda, Paul Bell - whose own great grandfather was killed fighting with the British Army in World War I - donned his official robes to stand side-by-side with the DUP Mayor of Newtownabbey, Paula Bradley.

They jointly took the salute as veterans and serving soldiers, sailors and airmen and cadets paraded past after their traditional church service.

The Labour party politician also attended the church service too, held as always in Whiteabbey Presbyterian Church, and laid a wreath during the solemn remembrance service.

This was a return trip, as just last weekend the Irish Tricolour flew as the Newtownabbey Mayor watched as Whiteabbey Royal British Legion Standards were unfurled in Co Louth to remember British Army war dead from across Ireland.

At that service, ex-British regular army and part-time UDR and RIR soldiers mingled with former troops from the Irish Republic at the war memorial in Drogheda's Mary Street which is the venue for the now annual event to honour the World War fallen.

They stood side-by-side as Royal British Legion Poppy wreaths were laid along with the tricolour wreaths of the Organisation of National Ex-servicemen, (ONE) as the traditional two-minute silence was observed. The symbolism was completed with the Union Flag - incorporated in the Legion's Royal Standard - dipped in tribute as the Irish Tricolour also paid tribute to a fallen generation.


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