Dutch publisher Derk Sauer, who built up a publishing empire in Russia and is part owner of the NRC newspaper, has confirmed he smuggled weapons for the IRA at the beginning of the 1970s while an ‘aspiring journalist’.
‘When I was 19 I went to Ireland to work for the IRA. Within no time at all I realised they were just gangs fighting each other,’ the 60-year-old told the Volkskrant this week.
‘Drugs dealing and blackmail were the order of the day. I was in the middle of it. I moved weapons for them, which were hidden under the back seat of my car. Inevitably they were used for attacks,’ the paper quoted him as saying.
Asked if he was aware of what he was doing at the time, Sauer said ‘I was 19, so I don’t know. I was an idealist but I was also in search of adventure.’
Sauer, a Socialist Party supporter, now lives in Moscow. He told the Volkskrant he could understand that Dutch Muslim youngsters are going to Syria to fight with the rebels there. ‘You are taken with an ideal,’ he said. ‘I’m not saying I agree with the boys but that is what I was like at their age.’
Criticised later for his statements about the IRA in the right-wing media, Sauer told his own paper, NRC, the Volkskrant comments are nothing new.
‘As an aspiring journalist I went to the closest war. I ended up in the home of a local IRA commander. It was the time of the emancipation movement and so I sympathised with the IRA because the Catholics of Ireland were oppressed by the Protestants,’ he told the NRC.
‘The commander sometimes asked if I would move weapons from A to B under the back seat of my car. I did it a couple of times but that was it.’
The Irish conflict and bombing campaigns were at their height in the early 1970s.
Sauer went on to say he had no regrets about his actions. ‘I was a boy of 19, from the Vietnam generation who wanted to help free the Catholic population. In the end the IRA went from a freedom movement to a terror movement,’ he said. ‘Now I am totally opposed to violence. I am more a pacifist yogi.’