Private Seán Rooney funeral: A 'national hero' who was 'wonderful and 'kind'

The devastated mother of Private Seán Rooney has told his funeral how she is not only proud of him as he is a ‘national hero,’ but because he was a wonderful, kind and loving person.
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Natasha McCloskey, along with Pte Rooney’s father Paul, fiancee Holly, siblings, grandparents, extended family and friends gathered in Church of the Holy Family in Dundalk for his Requiem Mass on Thursday morning.

Also in attendance were Irish President Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Tanaiste Michael Martin, party leaders, clergy including Archbishop Eamon Martin and members and representatives of the Defence Forces.

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Mourners also heard the young man’s fiancee, Holly, describe him as her ‘better half’ and as someone who would have been a great husband and an even better father.

Private Sean Rooney's funeral Mass took place in Dundalk, before burial in Newtowncunningham, Co. Donegal.Private Sean Rooney's funeral Mass took place in Dundalk, before burial in Newtowncunningham, Co. Donegal.
Private Sean Rooney's funeral Mass took place in Dundalk, before burial in Newtowncunningham, Co. Donegal.

Natasha McCloskey, supported by her husband, Paul, said there are ‘no words strong enough, great enough to express the love I have for Seán and how proud I am of Seán’.

"Seán was placed in my arms when I was 16 years old and he gave me purpose. I wanted to do better for Seán. I wanted to finish school for Seán. I wanted to go on to third level education for Seán, to buy my house for Seán. I wanted Seán to have a mother he could be proud of. In his life, he gave me purpose, in his death I will find new purpose.”

Natasha added how she could ‘stand here all day and tell you all the different, nice things that Seán has done for people’. She told how a childhood friend in Canada has raised 2000 dollars in Seán’s memory, which will go to underprivileged children this Christmas.

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She said this was ‘so fitting’ for Seán,’ as he ‘wouldn’t want to think of any child at Christmas without toys’,

Private Sean Rooney.Private Sean Rooney.
Private Sean Rooney.

Natasha continued: "I don’t have the words to express my love for him and my pride, as I look around at everyone here today for Seán. Not just because he is a national hero, I’m more proud of the kind and loving person Seán was. The most beautiful baby, the most gorgeous wee boy and the most handsome man you’ll every meet. But that is a fraction of what is on the inside. I will love you forever, son and I cannot wait to be reunited with you in Heaven.”

Father Derek Ryan told the congregation how, when Pte Rooney was killed, it ‘really did pierce the heart of his family, this close knit community’ and Dundalk.

Pte Rooney lived in Dundalk in his earlier years and his family lives in the local community. His home unit was the 27 Infantry Battalion in Dundalk.

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Fr Ryan told mourners that it ‘breaks the human heart when a loved one dies serving their country for the important work of peace building’.

"It breaks all our hearts and to use a phrase from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, the work of our Irish peacekeepers is so, so important.”

Father Ryan said he spoke with Pte Rooney before his first tour of Lebanon last year, which was a ‘remarkable conversation about his future and his life’.

He told mourners how Seán spoke about his fiancee, Holly, his sister, his parents and family.

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"He gave me this lovely glimpse into his life in Newtowncunningham, Co Donegal.”

Fr Ryan said Pte Rooney, who was baptised, received First Holy Communion and the Sacrament of Confirmation in the Dundalk Church. adored his grandparents and was ‘immersed in family life’

"What struck me and most people about Seán was his maturity. He was wise beyond his years.”

Mourner heard how there was a ‘unique bond’ between Seán and his mother and how she would pack lunches, dinners and laundry to last him the week. There was laughter when he told how Natasha would tell him to get to Dublin as soon as possible to get the food into the fridge, however he would ‘take a little detour’ to visit Holly.

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"A lot of that food never made it to Dublin. It was eaten in Derry by Holly and her flatmates.”

Fr Ryan read out a letter from Holly, in which she told how, growing up, she ‘never understood why people called their partner their other half’.

"As my relationship with Seán advanced, it became clear that Sean is not only my other half, he is my better half. I can say for certain he would have been a fantastic husband and an even better father.”

Seán, she said, always made her feel at ease and feel safe. He was an ‘extremely driven’ person who loved his job and adored his family.

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"He believed I could do anything. He made me feel like I could do anything and he always ensured to tell me how proud he was of everything I achieved in life.”

She added that while she is ‘absolutely heartbroken’ that their life together was cut short, she feels ‘extremely lucky’ to have experienced and felt his love.

“Some people don’t ever have the opportunity to love and be loved in the same way Seán and I did, so I feel absolutely honoured I have been afforded three wonderful years with him.”

Fr Ryan said the community across the country has been walking with Seán’s loved ones ‘every step of the way’.

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He continued: “Seán, your duty is done, a chara. You have earned your rest.”

Prayers were also said at the Mass for Pte Rooney’s late father.

Private Rooney’s remains left the church to travel to Newtowncunningham for burial.

Private Rooney will be laid to rest in Newtowncunningham this afternoon.

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