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Trooper Shane Kearney to be flown back to Dublin in medical evacuation from Lebanon

The young Cork soldier was in a critical condition for several days but is now serious but stable

Irish Trooper Shane Kearney who was injured when his convoy came under attack in Lebanon, killing Private Sean Rooney© PA

Ralph RiegelSunday World

An Irish soldier critically injured in Lebanon when a mob attacked his convoy as he was travelling home on Christmas leave will be reunited with his family at a Dublin hospital.

Trooper Shane Kearney (22) will be flown home by special medical evacuation aircraft from Beirut to Dublin this afternoon and transferred to Beaumont Hospital for ongoing medical treatment.

Beaumont is a specialist head trauma treatment centre.

The Defence Forces chartered the special aircraft for the transfer from Beirut Aircraft to Casement Aerodrome after it was confirmed by UN doctors that Trooper Kearney was now medically fit to be transferred.

The young Cork soldier was in a critical condition for several days but is now serious but stable.

A Defence Forces spokesperson said his condition continues to improve.

However, he will require ongoing treatment for some considerable period after he suffered blunt force trauma injuries to his head.

His transfer came a week after he suffered critical head injuries when his vehicle was attacked outside the village of al-Aqbiya in southern Lebanon.

His colleague, Private Seán Rooney died in the attack after being shot in the head.

Private Rooney will be buried with full military honours on Thursday after his remains were flown home from Lebanon by Air Corps aircraft.

Trooper Kearney's parents, Paudie and Phil, and his sister, Amy, will be reunited with him at Beaumont Hospital.

His girlfriend, Joanne Padden, had also issued an emotional plea for prayers for her injured boyfriend.

Trooper Kearney's family have been "overwhelmed" with messages of support and sympathy from across Ireland and the world.

He had been treated at the special Hammoud hospital run by the UN since the incident in southern Lebanon last week.

Separate investigations by the UN, Irish Defence Forces and Lebanese authorities are now underway into the incident at al-Aqbiya in southern Lebanon, just off the coastal road between Tyre and Sidon.

The Irish convoy was en route from their UNIFIL base to Beirut Airport for a flight home.

Two vehicles containing Irish peacekeepers heading home on compassionate leave became separated with one then surrounded by an angry mob.

Shots were fired at the Irish vehicle - with Private Rooney being killed after being struck in the head.

His vehicle then overturned.

Trooper Kearney was left with critical blunt trauma injuries to his head.

Three other Irish personnel suffered non-life threatening injuries.

The Iranian-linked Shia militia group, Hezbollah, insisted it was not involved in the incident which it said was "unintentional" and apparently caused by local issues.

Lebanese officials believe the attack was a mistake - with locals possibly confusing the Irish convoy for other military forces.

Trooper Kearney had since undergone two emergency surgeries - and stunned doctors with his recovery.

He is from Killeagh in east Cork and is based at Collins Barracks in Cork city, attached to the Cavalry Squadron.

The Cork community has rallied to support his parents, Padraig 'Paudie' and Phil, and his sister, Amy.

Hundreds attended a special vigil at Killeagh's Church of St John the Baptist last Thursday evening with a major turnout from Killeagh GAA and Cork GAA clubs as well as the Defence Forces, Organisation of National Ex-Servicemen (ONE) and Irish United Nations Veterans Association (IUNVA).

Paudie Kearney lit a special candle of hope at the vigil for his son.

Killeagh Parish Priest Fr Tim Hazelwood said everyone was praying for the recovery of a young man who was liked and admired throughout the east Cork community.

"We are all praying for Shane and for his family," he said.

"When things are tough, God is by our side and that is our prayer for Shane.

"We also remember the Rooney family and the terrible loss they have suffered."

Former Cork GAA Chairperson Tracey Kennedy is a close friend of the Kearney family.

She said the community was deeply shocked by the Lebanon tragedy - and everyone locally wanted to show support and solidarity with the Kearney family.

"Shane is a dear family friend of ours and his parents would appreciate all prayers for his recovery," she said.

Both the Lord Mayor of Cork, Councillor Deirdre Forde, and the Mayor of Cork County, Councillor Danny Collins, expressed their support for the Kearney family.

The Tricolour is flying at half mast at Cork civic buildings as a mark of respect.

Councillor Forde said she was praying for Trooper Kearney's recovery along with everyone else in Ireland.

"We hope that Shane will recover from his injuries as quickly as possible and get back home to his family," she said.

"We were all deeply shocked when we heard the dreadful news.

"The thoughts and prayers of the people of Cork are with the Kearney family at this difficult time. I can only imagine how difficult it is for them."

But she said Killeagh was like every proud Irish community which rallies together during challenging times - and will show every possible solidarity and support to the Kearney family.

Councillor Collins said everyone in Cork wanted to show their support for the Kearney family.

"My thoughts and prayers are with the Kearney family," he said.

"Shane is one of our own from Killeagh in County Cork and I wish him a speedy recovery after surgery. We are hoping and praying that he will be back home in no time."

Killeagh GAA Chairman Ger Scully said the Kearney family were held in very high esteem locally and everyone in the community was determined to support them in whatever way possible.

The family has received stalwart support from their son's Collins Barracks comrades - many of whom had been planning to meet Shane over Christmas during his period of leave.

Killeagh is near the home of Cork East TD James O'Connor and he said everyone locally was praying for the soldiers and their families.

Mr O'Connor played juvenile hurling with Shane.

"It has been a huge shock for everyone in the community," he said.

"This is a small tightknit community and everyone here will rally to support the family and everyone impacted by this."

Shane was a talented hurler with Killeagh GAA and competed for them at juvenile level.

His father is a respected GAA referee in east Cork and deeply involved in Killeagh GAA club.

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