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The UN solemn ceremony for Private Seán Rooney in Beirut today. UNIFIL
Sean Rooney

Body of Private Seán Rooney arriving home tomorrow morning

The body of the deceased peacekeeper will be reunited with his family tomorrow.

LAST UPDATE | 18 Dec 2022

THE BODY OF Private Seán Rooney, who was killed when his convoy was attacked in Lebanon this week, is to arrive home in Ireland tomorrow morning.

His body is being repatriated by the Irish Air Corps CASA aircraft. It departed Beirut at 4pm local time (2pm Irish time) and is due to land in Ireland early tomorrow.

Pte Rooney was killed in an attack in the village of Al-Aqbiya on Wednesday night. Another Irish soldier – Trooper Shane Kearney – was critically injured in the incident while two other soldiers who received minor injuries have been discharged from hospital yesterday.

A solemn UN ceremony took place in Beirut Airport to honour the deceased peacekeeper prior to departure. He will be brought to Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel where his body will be reunited with his family tomorrow morning.

Tributes have poured in for the 23-year-old soldier, who was serving as part of UNIFIL – the UN peacekeeping mission in the country.

Pte Rooney had strong links to Dundalk in Co Louth and Newtowncunningham in Co Donegal, with people who know the Rooney family saying he was raised in Dundalk before moving to Donegal when he was older.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar reiterated his condolences to Pte Rooney’s family and friends and colleagues in the Defence Forces.

Speaking at an Irish Red Cross event for Ukrainian families in Dublin, Varadkar described the Irish UN peacekeeping mission’s work in Lebanon as “immensely valuable”.

He said arrangements were being made for an appropriate service.

Minister for Enterprise Simon Coveney – who until yesterday was Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence – said today that he met Pte Rooney’s family, who he said were “strong and impressive people” in “an extraordinary period of loss.”

“We are there for them and will continue to be,” Coveney said on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics programme. “The defence family is tight at times like this. everybody is feeling that loss.”


The eight-person convoy, accompanied by Lebanese authorities, was attacked as it set out from the UNIFIL base in Naqoura to Beirut International Airport to allow two recently bereaved peacekeepers travel home to Ireland.

Three investigations are being carried out into Pte Rooney’s death: one by UNIFIL, one by Irish military authorities and one by Lebanese authorities.

The three investigations are being carried out in a collaborative manner.

Coveney said the Irish investigation comprised of both Defence Forces expertise and expertise from An Garda Síochána.

He added that he had spoken to the Lebanese Foreign Minister and Defence Minister “in very blunt terms in terms of our expectation for full co-operation.

“We will get to the bottom of what happened here … we’ve seen our personnel attacked in a way that is completely unacceptable.”

The political situation in South Lebanon is different from the capital of the troubled country – it is the heartland for the Hezbollah militant group.

The Irish area of operations begins just south of the Litani River and continues south to the Israeli border. A short distance to the east is the Syrian border and a few tens of kilometres further is the city of Damascus.

The area has been the scene to the worst of the fighting between Israel and the local insurgents.

It is approximately 40 minutes drive from the location where Pte Rooney was killed.

Cathal Berry, a former soldier and TD for Kildare South, said on The Week in Politics that “it’s very, very important that the perpetrators [who attacked the convoy] are brought to justice.

“It’s very important that the mission stays … UNIFIL is doing its job, it is containing the conflict, it is maintaining stability. It is providing the space for a political solution.”

Trooper Shane Kearney ‘breathing independently’

Coveney also said on The Week in Politics that Trooper Shane Kearney, who was critically injured in the attack, was improving in hospital.

“He’s making progress, he’s breathing again independently. His head injuries are being managed.

“He’s doing well given the circumstances and the seriousness of his injuries.”

Coveney added that plans were being put in place for Trooper Kearney to be brought home when he was able to leave the hospital in Lebanon.

Additional reporting by PA

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