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Lebanon leader says those responsible for killing of Irish soldier ‘will be punished’

Private Seán Rooney (24) was on a UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon when he was shot and killed late on Wednesday.

Maeve McTaggartSunday World

Lebanon’s prime minister has said those responsible for the death of a young Irish soldier “will be punished.”

Private Seán Rooney (24) was on a UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon when he was shot and killed late on Wednesday.

Private Rooney was attempting to steer himself and three colleagues to safety after coming under fire on the way to Beirut.

Another 23-year-old soldier, Trooper Shane Kearney, remains in critical condition in the aftermath of the attack on the convoy they were travelling in.

Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister Najib Mikati said in a statement that investigations into the attack and death of Private Seán Rooney are ongoing.

He added that those responsible “will be punished.”

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has told RTÉ News that he does not accept claims by Hezbollah that they were not involved in the attack.

"We don't accept any assurances until we have a full investigation concluded to establish the full truth,” he told the Six One News.

A senior Hezbollah official had said an "unintentional incident" led to the peacekeeper's death and that the armed group was not involved.

"I am not going to read anything into any statements for now, but simply to say that we owe it to the Defence Forces, to people who serve in uniform abroad as peacekeepers and in particular to the family, who are dealing with extraordinary loss right now, to establish the truth.”

Private Seán Rooney joined the Defence Forces in March 2019. He was originally from Newtowncunningham, Co. Donegal.

His colleagues are standing guard over his body at a UN hospital and will remain there until repatriation takes place.

Trooper Shane Kearney is from Killeagh, Co. Cork and joined the Defence Forces in October 2018.

He remains in critical condition, with around 300 people attending a prayer service for him yesterday evening in Killeagh.

Speaking to Independent.ie, a colleague of Pte Rooney’s and Trooper Kearney said: “It could have been anyone killed like that.

“It is easy to take a wrong turn, particularly at night. It is pitch black. Night is the worst time to travel to Beirut.

“It happens sometimes two or three times on every tour, a convoy goes down the wrong road and is surrounded.

“Usually, they just frighten you. If you have an interpreter with you, they can go and explain, but this obviously didn’t happen.

“There are two routes. The long one and the short one.

“The one by the sea, if you did it once, you would know it. But the one through the mountains, which is way shorter, is hard to even follow during the day.

"Unless you know the way it is so easy to take a wrong turn. There are no road signs and no lights.

“It is only in recent years that Irish soldiers were allowed to drive over the mountains, which takes approximately two hours while the other is 3.5 hours.

“Over the mountains, particularly at night, it’s very easy to get lost.

“There are about 10 turns in it. The golden rule is that the UN is not allowed on many roads because Hezbollah doesn’t want you to see what they are doing.

“This was definitely an accident because you don’t go down roads you don’t know in the Leb, especially at night.”

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