Taoiseach advises against going to fight in Ukraine after death of Irish man Rory Mason

The 23-year-old native of Dunboyne, Co Meath was a serviceman of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the Kharkiv region

The Taoiseach has advised people against going to Ukraine to join the war effort following the death of a Co Meath man in the east of the country last week.

Rory Mason, from Dunboyne, was killed on September 28th while fighting in the International Legion for the Defence of Ukraine as a serviceman of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the Kharkiv region.

The Mason family learned of the 23-year-old’s death from the Department of Foreign Affairs, which is providing consular assistance.

Mr Mason’s father Rob described Rory as a “private young man of drive, purpose and conviction”.

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“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,” he said in a statement.

“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’.”

Rob Mason said the family would miss Rory “enormously” and appealed for privacy while they come to terms with their loss. He is survived by his father, mother Elizabeth and a younger brother and sister.

Rory Mason enlisted in the international legion last March, shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The organisation said he was killed on the front line of an active war zone.

“Our brother in arms, Rory Mason has taken part in the Kharkiv counteroffensive with his unit and was killed in action. While conducting operations, the unit came under attack,” the legion said in a statement, adding that it was handling the repatriation process. “Rory’s memory will live on in his unit, in the Legion and the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the news of Mr Mason’s death was “a very sad

situation” for all concerned.

“It is very, very sad that any 23-year-old should die in this war. Our thoughts and our prayers are with the family right now,” he told reporters in Dublin.

“I’m reluctant to make comment on the context of his passing that would in any way be perceived as a judgement.

“People make these decisions in their lives with the best of reasons. We would advise people not to go to Ukraine. We’re continuing with that advice, I believe people who are not in any shape or form trained in the military way or with military experience in my view should not get involved in war… that would be my view on that.”

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said he “wouldn’t advise that anyone travel to Ukraine at the moment, it is a country at war and is a very dangerous place.

“But I do respect the fact that some people will make that decision and I would like to extend my condolences to Rory Mason’s family, to his friends and to the wider community in Dunboyne who were shocked at the news today,” he said.

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence Simon Coveney, speaking at the PDFORRA conference, said: “This is a tragic loss of a son, an extraordinarily brave and principled young man. But nevertheless, this is a tragic death.”

The Irish Times spoke with an Irish photographer who met Mason and two other Irish men in early August in Kyiv when they were reportedly preparing for deployment to Bakhmut, a city in the eastern Donbas region. None of the Irish men are believed to have had prior military experience.

The three met at a training camp in Poland after signing up for the international legion, said the photographer, who added that they reportedly underwent six weeks of training before going to Ukraine.

Mr Mason attended Dunboyne National School and St Peter’s College, Dunboyne. Deirdre May, principal at St Peter’s, said the school was “shocked to hear the news of the untimely death” of their former pupil.

Local councillor Maria Murphy said Rory was a “quiet boy” and the Masons are well-known in the town through the GAA. She described the reaction among locals as a mixture of “shock and horror” as very few people in the town knew that he had gone away to fight in Ukraine.

Ukrainian MP Sviatoslav Yurash said that the people of Ukraine will forever thank Rory Mason and his family for all he did to help their country “in this time of the greatest need”.

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a political reporter with The Irish Times

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times