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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 9°C
Sean Rooney

Funeral honours 'national hero' and 'kind and loving' Private Seán Rooney in Dundalk

Seán’s funeral took place in Dundalk this morning before a burial service in Donegal later today.

LAST UPDATE | Dec 22nd 2022, 8:11 PM

THE IRISH MILITARY has laid to rest the body of Private Seán Rooney in an emotional burial ceremony in Donegal.

Earlier family, friends and colleagues of Private Rooney gathered in Dundalk, where the congregation remembered the “national hero” and “kind and loving person”.

Family, friends, members of the local community and the Defence Forces, and politicians attended his funeral this morning at the Holy Family church in Dundalk and will now travel to Donegal where his body body will be laid to rest.

The burial service in All Saints Catholic Church, Colehill, Donegal took place this afternoon.

His coffin, draped in the UN Flag and Irish tricolour was carried first on a gun carriage and then by his army colleagues to the grave side. 

A team of soldiers completed the ceremony by firing a volley of shots into the sky. 

Earlier Priest Father Derek Ryan said that “when Seán was killed last week, it really did pierce the heart of his family, and the heart of this close-knit community and even the town of Dundalk”.

“It’s not talked about a lot, but families who have sons and daughters serving abroad, they know the risks and dangers that are always present in regions of conflict. Peacebuilding will always be a risky business. We call them peacekeeping missions but sometimes, they can be far from peaceful,” Father Ryan said.

“It breaks the human heart when a loved one dies serving their country for the important work of peacebuilding,” he said.

“What struck me and struck most people about Seán was his maturity. He was wise beyond his years. His family knew it, and of course, the Defence Forces knew it as well.”

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The priest read aloud a message from Holly, Seán’s fiancée, who said Seán would have been a “fantastic husband and an even better father” and that he loved his job in the Defence Forces.

“I am absolutely heartbroken that our life together has been cut short, but I feel extremely lucky to have experienced a person and love. Some people don’t ever have the opportunity to love and be loved in the way that Seán and I did, so I feel absolutely honored that I have been afforded three wonderful years with him.”

Seán’s mother, Natasha, described her son’s “wonderful and kind and loving” nature.

“I don’t have the words to express my love for him and my pride as I look around at everybody here today for Seán, not just because he is a national hero – I am proud of the kind and loving person that Seán was,” she said, receiving applause from the congregation. 

“He was the most beautiful baby, the most gorgeous boy, and the most handsome man you will ever meet, but that is a fraction of what was on the inside,” she said.

“I will love you forever son and I cannot wait to be reunited with you in heaven.”

Pte Sean Rooney Funeral 013 Sam Boal / Taoiseach Leo Varadkar arriving at the funeral this morning Sam Boal / /

President Michael D. Higgins attended the funeral this morning along with senior members of Government, including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Seán’s remains were flown back into Ireland on Monday by Air Corps aircraft, having flown from Beirut. 

Before leaving Beirut, Private Rooney was awarded a number of honours posthumously, including a peacekeeping medal from the UN and an appreciation medal from the Lebanese Armed Forces.

He was accompanied on the flight by a number of his colleagues from 121 Infantry Battalion, including his company commander, who are understood to have never left his side.

A short prayer service was held after his body was returned to his family at Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel, Dublin. A white coffin draped in the tricolour was carried out of the plane by a number of pall bearers wearing the distinctive Cavalry head dress.

The Defence Forces have opened an online book of condolences to allow people to share their sympathies with his loved ones.

Additional reporting by Lauren Boland