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Irishman killed fighting in Ukraine

Rory Mason (Handout/PA)
Rory Mason (Handout/PA)

An Irishman has been killed while fighting in Ukraine, his family has confirmed.

Rory Mason, 23, from Dunboyne in Co Meath, died while fighting for Ukraine’s International Legion near the Russian border.

The Mason family learnt of his death from the Department of Foreign Affairs, which is providing consular assistance.

The family said they are in contact with representatives of the International Legion for the Defence of Ukraine, for which he enlisted last March.

Mr Mason’s family said that information on his death is limited and their priority at this point is to repatriate his remains.

His father Rob said: “Rory was a private young man of drive, purpose and conviction.

“Though we are deeply saddened at his death, we are enormously proud of his courage and determination and his selflessness in immediately enlisting to support Ukraine.

“Rory was never political but he had a deep sense of right and wrong and an inability to turn the other way in the face of injustice.

“He had a long-standing interest in eastern Europe, in travel, and in learning new languages, including Russian.

“Those who fought alongside Rory speak of ‘a truly brave and courageous man who could have left at any time but chose not to’.

“In the words of a colleague who served with him, ‘Rory was a man who from a glance could seem shy, however when it came to actions and character he proved again and again he was a man of fortitude, principle and honour’.

“Rory was our son and we will miss him enormously. As our family is still trying to come to terms with Rory’s death, we would appeal for privacy at this difficult time.”

Before joining the International Legion, his family said he had been working in Germany to help fund his travel ambitions.

A native of Dunboyne, he attended Dunboyne National School and St Peter’s College, Dunboyne.

In a statement, the International Legion said: “Our brother in arms, Rory Mason, has taken part in the Kharkiv counter-offensive with his unit and was killed in action. While conducting operations, the unit came under attack.

“We are in contact with the family and in co-ordination with them, following their wishes and instructions, the International Legion and the Armed Forces of Ukraine are handling the repatriation process.

“At this time, to protect operational security and the family’s privacy we cannot release more information.

“Rory’s memory will live on in his unit, in the Legion and the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

“We would ask for the family’s privacy to be respected at this difficult time.”

The Taoiseach said his thoughts and prayers were with the Mason family.

Speaking at Government Buildings in Dublin alongside the Environment Minister and the Tanaiste, Micheal Martin said: “The Mason family have asked for privacy and I respect that.

“It’s very, very sad, that a young 23-year-old should die in this war. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family right now.

“I’m reluctant to make comment in the context of his passing that would in anyway be perceived as a judgment. People make individual decisions in their lives for the best of reasons.

“We have advised people not to go to Ukraine. We continue with that advice.

“People who are not in any shape or form trained in a military way or have any military experience in my view should not get involved in the war from a military perspective… but for the next number of days it is for the family to mourn their son who they loved and were very proud.”

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said Ukraine was a very dangerous place at present but he respected that some people will make that decision.

“I would like to extend my condolences to Rory Mason’s family, to his friends and wider community in Dunboyne who are very shocked at the news today,” he said.

“I think war should never happen but sometimes people choose to fight and anyone on the Ukrainian side of the war are fighting the good fight and we shouldn’t forget that.”

Environment Minister Eamon Ryan said: “I agree. Our thoughts are first and foremost with that family and their terrible loss and I think to mark that and recognise that is what we should do now.”

Speaking to reporters in Co Donegal, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said that he hoped the family’s request for privacy would be respected.

“Can I just express my condolences and sympathy to the family, I spoke to Rory’s father this morning, the family have asked for privacy and I hope people will respect that.

“This is a tragic loss of a son, an extraordinarily brave and principled young man.

“But nevertheless, this is a tragic death and the family want to be given the space to mourn and I hope that people will respect that, certainly I will.”

Mr Mason is survived by parents Rob and Elizabeth and a 22-year-old brother and 21-year-old sister.

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said the family’s grief has been heightened by the circumstances of his death.

“I’m very conscious of the fact that there’s a family grieving at the moment, that have lost a loved member of their family in circumstances that we can hardly imagine,” Mr Donohoe said.

“I’m sure that grief is just heightened by the circumstances in which it happened, and by their lives being touched by a vast, vicious war.

“The Department of Foreign Affairs is providing all support that we can to the family in this dreadful, dreadful loss of life.

“My condolences go out to them, and we will give them and their family any support that we can give in this terrible moment of loss.”