‘Full investigation’ promised into attack that left Irish peacekeeper dead in Lebanon

Varadkar tells Dáil that Simon Coveney will meet UN Secretary General to discuss the loss

There will be a full investigation into the circumstances in which an Irish peacekeeper died in south Lebanon after a convoy came under attack on Wednesday night, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said.

Mr Varadkar said the Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney will meet the UN Secretary General to discuss the “sad loss of our Irish servicemen and the inquiry to follow” while he is in New York later on Thursday.

Speaking in the Dáil, Mr Varadkar said that “today we are a nation united in grief at the loss of a brave Irish soldier”.

A minute’s silence was held in the Dáil shortly after noon to remember Pte Seán Rooney, originally from Newtowncunningham, Co Donegal.


The 24-year-old had been in the Army for almost four years and was based out of the 27th Infantry Battalion in Dundalk.

The fatal incident happened in the Al-Aqbieh area, just outside the group’s area of operations, when two vehicles carrying eight personnel were stopped at a roadblock and surrounded by attackers at around 11.15pm local time (9.15pm Irish time).

Mr Varadkar said members of the 121st Infantry Battalion with UNIFIL were on their way to Beirut in a convoy of two armoured vehicles when they “came under small arms fire”.

Four Irish personnel sustained injuries and were brought to hospital, where Pte Rooney was dead on arrival, Mr Varadkar said.

The other soldier, Pte Shane Kearney, remains in a serious condition in ICU while two other personnel sustained minor injuries.

The Tánaiste said a Defence Forces medical officer and chaplain is currently at the hospital.

“There will be a full investigation into this fatal incident and this evening Minister Coveney, who is in New York, will meet the UN Secretary General to discuss the sad loss of our Irish servicemen and the inquiry to follow,” Mr Varadkar said.

“The Taoiseach, Mr Coveney and the Chief of Staff have said that the Defence Forces will do everything to provide care and support to the bereaved families and those of the injured as well as providing ongoing support for all of the personnel in Lebanon.”

The Tánaiste said that the loss of Pte Rooney was felt by “everyone in the Defence Forces”, operating at home and abroad.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the Defence Forces personnel and their ongoing service commitment and courage,” he said.

Mr Varadkar said the Irish battalion in south Lebanon had helped restore stability “to an area that was once wracked by conflict”.

He said every day of the year, “far from these shores”, hundreds of Irish soldiers “stand guard for the cause of peace and human rights in various UN missions”.

“They join colleagues from around the world to form what is a thin blue line,” he said.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said she wished to extend her deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Pte Rooney as they “now try to cope with what is an immense and overwhelming loss”.

“It’s devastating news to receive at any time, but that this family will bear this sudden and incredible grief at Christmas is truly heartbreaking,” she said.

“No words expressed in this chamber will be enough, but I do hope that the family will take what comfort they can from the knowledge that the people of Ireland hold them in our hearts and in our thoughts today.”

The Dublin Central TD said that “this tragedy underscores the very serious risks and real danger” members of the Defence Forces face “in the name of peace”.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times