More than 1,000 mourners including a large number of members of the Defence Forces attended the funeral Mass for Sergeant Derek Mooney, 33, at St John the Baptist Church in Blackrock, Co Dublin.
Sgt Mooney, a member of the elite Army Ranger wing, had only been in Liberia a week when he was killed in a road traffic accident while travelling in convoy about 40 miles south-east of the capital, Monrovia, last Thursday. An investigation is underway into the circumstances of how Sgt Mooney’s jeep left the road.
The chief mourners at yesterday’s funeral mass were his parents Austin and Teresa, his brothers Adrian, John and Philip, and his fiancée Denise Kelleher.
The ceremony was also attended by President Mary McAleese and her husband Martin, who knew Sgt Mooney from a visit they made to Honduras in 2001.
Other dignitaries included Defence Minister Michael Smith, Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces Lt-Gen Colm Mangan and Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy. An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was represented by his aide-de-camp, Cmdt Michael Murray.
In his homily, Monsignor John Crowley, the head chaplain of the Defence Forces, praised Sgt Mooney as “unflappable, a loyal friend with a great sense of humour and yet a man of few words”. He recalled how the deceased had decided he wanted to be a soldier from the age of three. “Derek loved soldiering; it was his life,” said Msgr Crowley.
“Derek, you were a light that sparkled brightly but too short in this world.”
Among the items included in the offertory gifts was a photo of the Army unit with which Sgt Mooney served while on UN peacekeeping duties in East Timor in the late 1990s.
In a brief tribute, Sgt Mooney’s brother John said the family would keep his memory alive by showing his qualities of kindness, tenderness, happiness and loyalty to others.
The procession, including large numbers of Army personnel as well as ex-servicemen, left the church for burial to Shanganagh Cemetery.
Prayers were also offered for Sgt Mooney’s colleague, Sgt Sean Baldwin, who was seriously injured in the accident in Liberia as well as the 450 troops who are due to fly out to the west African state over the next fortnight.
Sgt Baldwin was airlifted back to the Mater Hospital in Dublin where his condition was yesterday described as “critical but stable”.