Today, at a somber ceremony in Beirut, UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander Major General Aroldo Lázaro honoured and bade farewell to Private Sean Rooney, the Irish 24 year-old peacekeeper killed late Wednesday night.
“Together, we mourn for the loss of Private Rooney,” said Lázaro. “We thank his family, colleagues, and his country for giving us the privilege and honour to serve with him, contributing to the maintenance of the peace in the south of Lebanon.”
The UNIFIL head and other peacekeepers, members of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), and Ms. Nula O’Brien (Ambassador of Ireland to Lebanon) gathered on the tarmac at Rafik Hariri International Airport for the ceremony to pay their final respects. The fallen peacekeeper lay in a coffin covered in Irish and United Nations flags.
“Private Rooney proudly contributed to the mission as a valuable member of an exemplary unit,” said Lázaro. “The Irish-Pol[ish] Battalion is a unit that stands out among others, with a long and brilliant history of service dedicated to the peace in this region.”
In his remarks, UNIFIL’s Head of Mission and Force Commander noted Ireland’s strong and proud history of peacekeeping in Lebanon, having served here since 1978. This long history did not come without sacrifice, however, as Ireland has now lost 48 soldiers serving for peace in UNIFIL, the most of any contingent.
Three other Irish peacekeepers were injured in the attack that took Private Rooney’s life, including Trooper Shane Kearney, who remains in critical but stable condition.
During the ceremony, Major General Lázaro posthumously awarded Private Rooney the United Nations Medal. Major General Pierre Saab, representing LAF Commander General Joseph Aoun, awarded him the War Medal, the Wounded Medal, and the Appreciation Medal Bronze Degree from the Lebanese Armed Forces.
Afterward, Private Rooney’s body was flown home to Ireland, where he will be laid to rest.
The Wednesday night attack remains under investigation by UNIFIL, the Lebanese Armed Forces, and Irish authorities.
As Major General Lázaro said the day after the attack, “As we mourn the loss of Private Sean Rooney, a young Irish soldier full of hope and promise, and send our thoughts and prayers for the full recovery of Private Shane Kearney, we will only redouble our efforts to accomplish our mandate, in their honour.”