Pte Rooney’s funeral was held in the Church of the Holy Family, in Dundalk, just yards from where he lay in repose in his grandparents’ house yesterday after his body was returned from Lebanon where he was killed last week.
Taking to the altar at the end of the Requiem Mass, his mother Natasha spoke with love, pride and emotion about Sean, who was on a UN peacekeeping mission when he was killed.
“He was placed in my arms when I was 16 years old, and he gave me purpose. I wanted to do better for Sean. I wanted to finish school for Sean. I wanted to go on the third level education for Sean, to buy my house for Sean. I wanted Sean to have a mother he could be proud of,” she said.
“In his life he gave me purpose, and in his death I will find new purpose.
"I could stand here all day and tell you all the different nice things that Sean has done for people. I had a childhood friend in Canada who couldn't be here today. Instead of sending flowers he raised $2,000 and that money is going to underprivileged children this Christmas. Sean wouldn’t like to think of any child at Christmas without toys.”
“I don't have the words to express my love for him, or my pride as I look around at everybody here today for Sean, not just because of this, not because he is a national hero.
"He was the most beautiful baby, the most gorgeous wee boy, and the most handsome man you will ever meet, but that is a fraction of what was on the inside. I will love you forever son, and I cannot wait to be reunited with you in heaven,” he said through her tears while the mourners clapped.
The family of Pte Rooney’s colleague, Shane Kearney, who was critically injured in the same incident, also attended the funeral before travelling to Beaumont hospital in Dublin to be with him.
The remains of Private Seán Rooney arrived in Dundalk for his funeral mass this morning.
Tricolours are flying at half-mast in Co Louth, where family and friends, who had been looking forward to welcoming the 24-year-old home from Lebanon for Christmas are bidding a final farewell to the young soldier who was killed on peacekeeping duties.
Yesterday, they paid their respects at his grandparents’ home in Muirhevnamore, where he lay in repose.
Pte Rooney was killed on December 14 when a UN convoy taking Irish soldiers to Beirut airport was attacked by a mob in the south Lebanon village of al-Aqbiya.
His family travelled to Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, on Monday as his remains were repatriated.
Following a short prayer service, his coffin, draped in the tricolour, was taken to the home of his grandparents, Eugene and Rachel Rooney, on Aghameen Park estate.
Tony Broadhurst, from nearby Glenmore Park, told the Irish Independent:
“Seán was so young. He was a young person doing good for other people, and he was due to come home for Christmas. It doesn’t get any worse.
“I think everybody under- stands what the family is going through. In my life, I’ve always thought, ‘I hope and pray that one of my kids doesn’t go before me’. It would just be the worst nightmare ever.”
John O’Hanlon, who also lives on the Glenmore estate, said everyone knows and respects the Rooney family.
“It’s devastating. It has hit the whole community. Eugene looks after the grounds of the church and he always keeps it spotless, summer or winter,” he said.
Pte Rooney was predeceased by his father Cormac. He is survived by his mother Natasha and dad Paul, grandparents Eugene and Rachel Rooney, grandmother Ann McCloskey, fiancee Holly McConnellogue, sisters Robyn and Carragh, brothers Callum and Benn, aunts Tara, Olga and Lauren, uncles John, Eugene and John and wider family.
Trooper Shane Kearney (23), who was seriously injured in the attack in which Pte Rooney was killed, has been evacuated back to Dublin.
He arrived at Casement Aerodrome yesterday evening, and was transferred to Beaumont Hospital.
His family, who will be represented at Pte Rooney’s funeral, were expected to be reunited with him at his bedside.
It is understood the Cork soldier’s condition is now stable and improving.