Carrick to host opening night of Armed Forces events

Red Arrows fly over Carrickfergus Castle on Armed Forces Day 2013. INCT 26-438-RM
Red Arrows fly over Carrickfergus Castle on Armed Forces Day 2013. INCT 26-438-RM

Plans to hold a weekend programme of Armed Forces events across Mid and East Antrim this summer have been confirmed.

The regional celebrations will take place across three days in Carrickfergus, Ballymena and Larne from June 19-21.

Agreed at last Tuesday night’s meeting of the MEA super-council, the plans were originally discussed at a meeting of the authority in October.

The proposals caused some controversy in Carrick, with residents voicing concern that the town would lose out on hosting one of its most popular events.

The celebrations will commence with a ‘curtain raising’, maritime-focused event at Carrickfergus waterfront on the Friday evening (June 19).

On Saturday, the event in Ballymena will take shape as an all-day programme, opening with a military, veterans and cadets parade through the town to the Showgrounds.

Following a drumhead service and welcome ceremony, spectators will be treated to a range of arena displays, sports competitions between military and civilian teams, and static display stands.

Capability demonstrations by the military, as well as adventure activities and children’s activities are also planned to enhance the family experience.

The day will conclude with ‘Beating Retreat’ and closing ceremony.

The proposed ‘finale’ event will be held in Larne on the Sunday (June 21), and will include a suitably reflective church service with military music support and tri-service Senior Military Representation.

Councillor Billy Ashe, chairman of Mid and East Antrim Council, said: “We are tremendously proud to announce that Mid and East Antrim has been chosen to host the Armed Forces Day regional event for Northern Ireland in 2015.

“Armed Forces Day is an extremely significant celebration, and we are working with our partners to stage a first class programme and weekend of events, worthy of leading the region in honouring our Armed Forces. The three-day event, held at three different locations, will broaden the existing tourism offering in Mid and East Antrim and will attract a wide audience of all ages, increasing footfall and providing economic benefit to the entire area.”

The celebration will allow local people and the wider community to engage in the spectacle, said chairman of the Armed Forces Day steering group, Councillor John Stewart. “We expect to welcome many thousands of residents and visitors to Carrickfergus, Ballymena and Larne over the weekend of June 19-21,” he added.

“I hope that everyone enjoys our community hospitality at these special events. Mid and East Antrim Council is working closely with representatives from the military services, Royal British Legion and local communities to plan an engaging and exciting line up of activities for the public to experience and enjoy.”

Meanwhile, veterans are planning to hold a parade in Carrick the following weekend to coincide with the UK-wide Forces day.