Private Seán Rooney’s best friend has paid tribute to the man he described as “the most kind-hearted, caring person in the world”.
Growing up, it was inevitable that Christopher O’Neill and Seán would be close; their mothers knew each other well and the pair were born just a few weeks apart.
To the outside world, they appeared to be best friends but the two lads knew their bond was greater than that.
“I would say more bothers,” Christopher told Newstalk.
“We did everything together; learnt how to walk, how to talk and grown up together over the years, making memories that will last over a lifetime.”
From a young age, Seán’s personality stood out; he was immensely fun to be around and very loving towards those he knew.
“He was funny, witty,” Christopher described.
“He was one of the best people. He’s the most kind-hearted, caring person in the world.
“He loved his friends, he loved his family and he took pride in it.”
Over the summer, Seán went to Paris to propose to his girlfriend and had called Christopher the night before for a pep talk.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Christopher said.
“We were best friends, we told each other everything and I was like, ‘Unreal - fair play to you’ - because he really loved her.”
Seán was due to take leave back in Ireland over Christmas and the two friends had been chatting about his plans mere hours before his death in Lebanon.
“We told each other we couldn’t wait to see each other and then [I] got the phone call on the early hours of Thursday morning and found out,” Christopher recalled.
“Probably a feeling that I’ll never forget; the shock, just the instant… I didn’t believe it, y’know?
“I thought I was in a nightmare - still do. Shocking, shocking news.
“I could feel my heart break; I lost a brother.
“It feels like something left me that day; I can’t even put into words the feeling that I felt and am still currently feeling.”
Amidst the grief, there is comfort from the tributes that are being paid to him.
Seán took “great pride” from being an Irish soldier; his father and uncles had served in the Defence Forces and even as a child he had wanted a military career.
“He loved everything about it,” Christopher said.
Across Ireland, flags are flying at half masts and books of condolences have been put out for those who wish to leave a message for Holly, the Rooneys and the O’Neills.
“He’ll be missed by everybody,” Christopher said.
“By me, his friends, his family and the wider community - and even the country.”
Main image: Seán and Christopher. Picture by: Christopher O'Neill.