The funeral of Pte Seán Rooney, who died last week in Lebanon where he was serving as a peacekeeper, will take place in Dundalk, Co Louth, later this week.
The Defence Forces said Pte Rooney’s remains will be brought to the Holy Family Church in the town for Mass at 9am on Thursday. He will then be taken to All Saints Catholic Church in Colehill, Co Donegal, for a burial service with full military honours at about 3.30pm.
The 24-year-old’s remains were repatriated from Lebanon on Monday. The soldier, from Newtowncunningham, Co Donegal, was killed on active service when his convoy came under attack last Wednesday night. He was part of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil).
A death notice posted on Rip.ie states: “Predeceased by his father Cormac. Seán will be sadly missed and forever loved by his heartbroken mother Natasha and dad Paul, his adored grandparents Eugene and Rachel Rooney, nanny Ann McCloskey, his loving fiancée Holly, sisters Robyn and Carragh, brothers Callum and Benn, aunts Tara, Olga and Lauren, uncles John, Eugene and John, the entire McCloskey family, extended family relatives, wonderful friends and colleagues in the Irish Defence Forces and Unifil comrades.”
Pte Rooney’s remains left Beirut Airport on an Irish Air Corps Casa plane on Sunday afternoon after a solemn UN ceremony was held to honour the soldier in advance of his journey home. He was accompanied on the flight by a number of his colleagues from the 121st Infantry Battalion, including his company commander, and arrived at Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel, Dublin, on Monday morning.
A short prayer service was held after his body was returned to his family, who were given some private time with his remains.
Pte Rooney’s mother, his fiancée, his mother’s partner, his three uncles and his grandfather were among those present as his coffin was carried from the aircraft. Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence Micheál Martin was also in attendance.
The white coffin, draped in an Irish Tricolour, was carried by a number of pall bearers and was driven away in a hearse accompanied by a Garda escort shortly afterwards.
The Lord Mayor of Dublin Caroline Conroy on Monday opened an online book of condolences for the family of Pte Rooney. It will remain open until January 2nd.
Ms Conroy said: “On behalf of the citizens of Dublin, I wish to express my deepest condolences to the family of Pte Seán Rooney. Pte Rooney lost his life serving the people of Ireland, the United Nations and protecting those who strive for peace across the world.
“My sincere sympathies go to his family, his Army colleagues and all who knew him. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam.”
Pte Rooney’s colleague, Trooper Shane Kearney, from Killeagh, Co Cork, was seriously injured in the incident and 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 Unifil.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar reiterated his condolences to Pte Rooney’s family, 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 it was important that to understand the circumstances of the attack.
Three investigations are under way into the incident – 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 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 Pte 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.”
[ Seán Rooney: a ‘selfless’ soldier who was due to marry next year ]
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.
– Additional reporting: PA