Private Seán Rooney has been given the final salute in his home village of Newtowncunningham.
As daylight dimmed over the Church of All Saints, the young peacekeeper was accorded a solemn and respectful burial ceremony with full military honours.
A gun salute, the Last Post and Reveille sounded out through the air as Pte’s family, friends and colleagues said their last goodbyes.
Private Rooney had been looking forward to coming home from Lebanon for Christmas. But on Wednesday last, his life was ended while serving with the 121st Infantry Battalion on a UN peacekeeping mission.
Veterans and others lined out in towns from Dundalk to Newtown to pay tribute to the fallen soldier as his funeral cortège travelled from his birthplace in Louth, where he lived up to the age of 12, to his hometown in Donegal this afternoon.
Tricolours hung from some windows and flags flew at half mast at official buildings in Ireland and around the world.
Army officials gained special clearance to cross the border in uniform, where the cortége passed into the care of the PSNI for travel through Co. Tyrone into Lifford.
At Colehill, Pte Rooney’s coffin was taken by gun carriage for burial, led by the Army Number One Band. His comrades from the 27th Infantry Battalion carried his coffin to the graveside. A lone piper led the procession.
Pte Rooney’s beret, the tricolour and the United Nations flag that draped this coffin were presented to his family prior to the burial.
The killing of Private Seán Rooney in South Lebanon was the first death of an Irish peacekeeper in combat in 23 years. Eighty-eight personnel, 87 from the Irish Army and one from the Air Corps, have died in overseas deployments since the 1960s. Ireland has now lost 48 soldiers serving for peace in Lebanon, the most of any contingent.
Private Rooney fulfilled his lifelong wish to join the Defence Forces at the age of 19. He trained as a specialist driver while he was stationed at Aiden Barracks in Dundalk and completed his first tour to Lebanon in 2021. He took the opportunity of a second mission to Lebanon this year to save up for his wedding next summer.
Private Rooney’s mother and fiancée both shared their admiration and pride for Seán during emotional tributes at his Funeral Mass in Dundalk this morning.
His mother Natasha McCloskey, who lives in Newtown, said her first-born son gave her purpose in life. The church erupted in applause when Natasha described Seán as a national hero, but she said she was more proud of how kind and loving he was.
Seán’s fiancée, Holly Mc Connellogue from Derry, said she was “absolutely honoured” to have been afforded three wonderful years with him.
“I am absolutely heartbroken that our life together has been cut short, but I feel extremely lucky to have experienced that person and love,” Holly wrote in a tribute read by Parish Priest Fr Derek Ryan.
“Some people don’t ever have an opportunity to love and be loved in the way that Seán and I did.”
Private Rooney has been posthumously awarded the United Nations Medal along with the War Medal, the Wounded Medal, and the Appreciation Medal Bronze Degree from the Lebanese Armed Forces.
Tá do dhualgas déanta, a chara.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh d’anam dílis.