Sean Rooney: body of Irish UN peacekeeping soldier to be repatriated after death in Lebanon
Sean Rooney was killed while on active service in Lebanon
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The body of Irish UN peacekeeping soldier Sean Rooney will be repatriated to Ireland later on Sunday.
A member of the Irish Defence Forces, Private Rooney, 23, from Newtowncunningham, Co Donegal, was killed on active service when his convoy came under attack in Lebanon this week. The Defence Forces said Mr Rooney’s remains will leave Beirut on an Air Corps plane at 4pm Beirut time.
A UN ceremony will be held to honour the soldier at Beirut Airport before the departure. Private Rooney’s body will be taken to Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, before being reunited with his family on Monday (19 December).
His colleague, Private Shane Kearney, from Killeagh, Co Cork, was seriously injured in the incident. He remains in a serious condition in hospital. Two other peacekeepers were treated for minor injuries.
The soldiers were part of 121st Infantry Battalion, comprising 333 Irish troops, which was deployed in November to south Lebanon as part of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil). Taoiseach Leo Varadkar reiterated his condolences to Private SeanRooney’s family and friends and colleagues in the Defence Forces.
Speaking at an Irish Red Cross event for Ukrainian families in Dublin Mr Varadkar described the Irish UN peacekeeping mission’s work in Lebanon as “immensely valuable”. He said arrangements were being made for an appropriate service.
“I don’t want to go into details of that now until it’s confirmed, but obviously, he’ll be offered military honours which I think is appropriate given the circumstances.” He said it was important that to understand the circumstances of the attack.
Three investigations are under way: one led by the UN, another by the Defence Forces and a third by the Lebanese government. “I would have confidence in those investigations to find out exactly what happened, why an Irish soldier lost his life and another another was severely injured,” Mr Varadkar said.
“It’s important that we do that. It’s also important that we avoid any speculation, I think at this point until those investigations are done. But the main thing I think this week really is to stand with and express our condolences to Private Rooney’s family, his friends and colleagues because it’s been a long time since we lost a soldier in combat in Lebanon. But it does remind us how important that mission is.”
Mr Varadkar said the Irish peacekeeping soldiers efforts has allowed people “in that part of Lebanon for the last few decades to lead a relatively normal life which wouldn’t be the case otherwise”. “It’s an immensely valuable mission, over 40,000 Irish people have served there, which is extraordinary if you think about it, and one that we’re very committed to,” the new Taoiseach added.