ONE of Ireland's oldest military units proudly marched into history as it disbanded under a controversial Defence Forces rationalisation programme.
The 4th Infantry Battalion, which was founded over 80 years ago, formally stood down yesterday after a special ceremony for its remaining 450 members at Collins Barracks in Cork.
The battalion disbanded under a programme that will also see the Western Brigade merge with another command. The 4th Infantry Battalion's remaining members will now be used to top-up under-strength units in Cork, Limerick, Dublin and Kilkenny. A significant number of members will also retire.
Cork's Lord Mayor, Councillor John Buttimer (FG), said the unit had made "a magnificent contribution to Cork and Irish life as well as the cause of world peace".
The unit has contributed soldiers to every Irish UN peacekeeping mission since 1960. The battalion was also deployed for emergencies such as the 2009 Cork floods and the severe winters of 2009/2010. Members were also deployed in support of the Whiddy Island (1979) and Air India (1985) tragedies.
The unit's flag was ceremonially furled under the supervision of Cmdt Bob Hurley. All the unit's flags and awards will now go to a Defence Forces museum.
The Southern Brigade's Officer Commanding is Brig General Derry Fitzgerald, a brother of former Irish rugby captain Ciaran Fitzgerald.
Under the rationalisation programme, Ireland will see its total number of army battalions drop from nine to seven though the Government has vowed to maintain personnel at a level of 9,500.