Irish soldier Seán Rooney’s body brought home after murder in Lebanon

Flight carrying the remains of the 23-year-old touched down in Casement aerodrome in Baldonnel following journey home overnight


The body of murdered peacekeeper Seán Rooney has arrived back in Ireland where the family of the 23-year-old will be reunited with his remains.

Pte Rooney’s body landed in Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel shortly after 8.30am following an overnight flight from Beirut.

The 23-year-old died after being shot when the armoured vehicle he was in came under attack and turned over after being separated from a convoy which was driving troops to Beirut Airport.

Pte Rooney was serving as part of the UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon. His fellow soldier, Trooper Shane Kearney (22), was seriously injured in the incident and underwent surgery for head injuries.

Pte Rooney was accompanied on his journey home by his Company Commander, 121 Irish Battalion Recce Company, Commander Brian Connolly.

His family were waiting at the aerodrome to be reunited with Pte Rooney’s remains following his shocking killing last week.

Private Seán Rooney (23)

Lieutenant general Seán Clancy, Secretary General in the Department of Defence Jacqui McCrum and Micheal Martin were also in attendance.

Arrangements for Pte Rooney’s funeral are yet to be finalised.

Pte Rooney’s repatriation comes as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said yesterday he is confident that the investigations into the death of Pte Rooney will establish the sequence of events leading up to it.

The investigations into the incident will aim to clarify why the SUV came off a main route and into the coastal village of Al-Aqbiyah.

The area is controlled by the militant group Hezbollah, which has denied involvement in the killing.

“There are three investigations underway to work out what happened,” said Mr Varadkar.

“One led by the UN, one led by our own Defence Forces, and one led by the Lebanese government.

“They may take a little bit of time and it is important that we understand why this incident occurred, why an Irish soldier lost his life and another was severely injured.

“I would have confidence in those investigations to find out exactly what happened. It’s also important that we avoid any speculation at this point until those investigations are done.

“But the main thing this week is to stand with and express our condolences to Pte Rooney’s family, his friends and colleagues.

“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.

“I’ve been there and had an opportunity to meet with the soldiers, and meet with the local community. For the last few decades, it has allowed people in that part of Lebanon to lead a relatively normal life, which wouldn’t be the case otherwise.

Plane carrying remains of Pte Seán Rooney arrives at Casement aerodrome in Baldonnel

“It’s an immensely valuable mission and one that we’re very committed to. Over 40,000 Irish people have served there, which is extraordinary.”

Meanwhile, a team of eight Defence Forces personnel will be on the ground in Lebanon today to support members of Pte Rooney’s battalion.

A Defence Forces spokeswoman said four of them are part of the critical incident response team and will be offering personal support services, including stress management and counselling, to any of the battalion who want to avail of it.

This includes members who were not part of the convoy that came under fire as it made its way to Beirut last Wednesday.

Three of the team are members of the military police and will assist in evidence gathering and interviews, while the eighth member of the team is a legal officer who will meet with Lebanese authorities investigating the incident.

Pte Rooney was serving as part of the UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon. His fellow soldier, Trooper Shane Kearney (22), was seriously injured in the incident and underwent surgery for head injuries.

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