An ex-British soldier who wants to be President has told of living under IRA death threat in the 1970s and how an old comrade was once abducted in Derry before being shot in Donegal.
Gerard Craughwell, from Salthill, propelled himself into the national consciousness last year, when he vowed to challenge President Michael D Higgins for the position of head of state when his first term expires later this year.
The independent senator, who joined the British Army’s Royal Irish Rangers in London in the late 1960s eventually returned to Ireland where he joined Óglaigh na hÉireann.
Speaking in the Seanad in a debate to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA), Senator Craughwell, remarked that the accord had represented a profound change for the better. He divulged details of a military career that resulted in his life being endangered during the Troubles.
At a recent convention of the Historical and Reconciliatory Police (HARP) society - a fraternity of police officers from the North and the Republic - he said he had reason to recall the perils of having worked as a British soldier when the war was raging.
“As we had lunch, I recalled 1974 and being dragged out of public houses or wherever I happened to be to reassure my mother that I was alive because the IRA had sentenced me to death purely because of a career choice I made when I joined the British Army,” he said.
“Hundreds like me came under the same threat. One colleague from my battalion was taken from Derry into Donegal and shot. It was no joke. It is important that we remember where we were then because I believe that history is being lost among the younger people in Ireland.
“We have had such wonderful peace for so long that people are inclined to forget what it was like; it was horrible. Many is the poor mother, widow or father who suffered badly. They are still suffering. With the Good Friday Agreement we got peace and the ability to reconcile among ourselves,” he said.