Body of Irish UN peacekeeping soldier Sean Rooney to be repatriated
The body of Irish UN peacekeeper Sean Rooney will be transferred to Ireland later on Sunday.
A member of the Irish Forces, Private Rooney, 23, from Newtowncunningham, Co Donegal, was killed on active duty when his convoy was attacked in Lebanon this week.
The Defense Forces said the remains of Mr. Rooney would leave Beirut at 4:00 p.m. Beirut time on an Air Corps plane.
A UN ceremony in honor of the soldier will be held at Beirut airport before departure.
Private Rooney’s body will be taken to Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel before being reunited with his family on Monday.
His colleague, Private Shane Kearney, from Killeagh, Co Cork, was seriously injured in the incident. He remains in the hospital in serious condition.
Two other peacekeepers were treated for minor injuries.
The soldiers belonged to the 121st Infantry Battalion, made up of 333 Irish troops, which deployed to southern Lebanon in November as part of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil).
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar repeated his condolences to Private Sean Rooney’s family, friends and colleagues in the Defense Forces.
At an Irish Red Cross event for Ukrainian families in Dublin, Mr Varadkar described the work of Ireland’s UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon as “immensely valuable”.
He said arrangements are being made for a proper service.
“I don’t want to go into detail now until it’s confirmed, but obviously he’ll be offered military honors, which I think is appropriate given the circumstances.”
He said it’s important to understand the circumstances of the attack.
Three investigations are underway: one led by the UN, another by the defense forces and a third by the Lebanese government.
“I would have confidence in these inquiries to find out exactly what happened, why one Irish soldier lost his life and another was seriously injured,” Mr Varadkar said.
“It’s important that we do this. It’s also important, I think at this point, that we avoid speculation until these investigations are complete.
“But I think the most important thing this week is really to stand by Private Rooney’s family, friends and colleagues and send our condolences to them because it has been a long time since we lost a soldier in combat in Lebanon. But it reminds us how important this mission is.”
Mr Varadkar said the efforts of the Irish peacekeepers had “enabled people in this part of Lebanon to live relatively normal lives over the last few decades, which would otherwise not have been the case”.
“It’s an immensely valuable mission, over 40,000 Irish have served there which is extraordinary when you think about it and a mission to which we are deeply committed,” added the new Taoiseach.