One of the world’s leading media barons has revealed a teenage dalliance with the IRA that saw him become a gun runner for the Proves.

Dutch publisher Derk Sauer has revealed his Republican past to the Irish Times newspaper.

Derk Sauer’s Independent Media owns Russian titles including the English-language Moscow Times. He is also part-owner of the daily NRC Handelsblad in the Netherlands

He has told the paper how as a 19-year-old would-be journalist in search of a story to make his name, he travelled to Northern Ireland and became involved in gun-running for the IRA.

The 60-year-old said he had smuggled weapons ‘a few times’ in the early 1970s, before becoming disillusioned.

Sauer said: “As an aspiring young journalist, I went to the closest war.

“It was around the time of the civil rights movement. As an idealistic 19-year-old, I sympathised with the IRA because, in my view, the Catholics of Northern Ireland were being oppressed by the Protestants. I was an idealist, but I was also in search of adventure.”

Sauer also told how he went to the home of one unnamed IRA commander, where he was asked if he would be willing to become involved in a practical way on the republican side.

He added: “He asked me if I would move weapons from A to B hidden under the back seat of my car. I did it a few times but that was it. Inevitably I suppose, they were used for attacks.”

Sauer said the longer he remained in the North, the more his idealism disappeared and he began to regard what he saw as little more than gangsterism.

He said: “Drug-dealing, blackmail and extortion were the order of the day. I was in the middle of it. I came to realise these were just gangs fighting one other, a lot of the time feuding over territory. All the time I saw idealism descend into nihilism.

“I had gone to Northern Ireland as one of the Vietnam War generation, to write articles from the point of view of an activist, explaining the plight of the Catholic population – but I left as a journalist who was highly critical of the use of force.”

Sauer concluded: “I have no regrets about my actions but in the end, the IRA went from freedom movement to terror movement. Now I am totally opposed to violence.”

The report says that because of his experiences, he could understand the mindset of young Dutch Muslim men who went to Syria to fight for the anti-Assad opposition.

He said: “You become taken with an ideal. I’m not saying I agree with what those boys are doing. I do not agree. I’m saying I understand. That is what I was like at their age.”

Dutch publisher Derk Sauer has revealed his Republican past.