Irish EU ambassador to Sudan tells of relief at being unhurt after armed men ‘stormed’ home

Aidan O’Hara, who was interrogated and held at gunpoint, says he was not the only diplomat to have such an experience

EU ambassador to Sudan Aidan O’Hara, who was assaulted after armed men in military fatigues “stormed” his home in Khartoum last month, has told of his relief that he was unhurt during the incident.

While the assault had been stressful, he told RTÉ Radio’s News at One, it had been more stressful hearing bombs explode and gunfire on the streets close to his home.

The good news, the Irishman added, was that although he had been interrogated and had been held at gunpoint, the incident lasted about 45 minutes. He was not the only diplomat to have such an experience as “very few” diplomatic premises were untouched.

Mr O’Hara was a long-serving diplomat in the Department of Foreign Affairs before he became an EU ambassador.


His experience of getting out of Sudan had been eventful with a bomb being dropped close to the convoy during the transfer by French military to the airbase from which they were evacuated. “This was obviously a consular operation, but it was also a military operation. And I think it had to be conducted in very strict terms.”

Until the outbreak of hostilities, Mr O’Hara had been conducting talks with the military and civilian authorities in an effort to keep the civilian process on track, he said. “And then everything came apart on the morning of April 15th.

“My memory of that morning was not that unusual because there are so many armed groups in Khartoum you sometimes hear volleys of gunfire. But on April 15th, it was a Friday and gunfire was quite close to the house, followed by explosions, followed by a lot of black smoke.

“That was the first time there was quite a clear signal that everything had changed. The important thing for me afterwards is that I’m fine and I was unhurt. And it wasn’t a pleasant experience, obviously. But what I think was it was not the most dreadful thing that happened to me, and it was a week to 10 days during the conflict while I was present, I think like everybody else in Khartoum, and elsewhere and in Sudan, what was more stressful was being at home with bombs falling and gunfire on the streets.

“I think I consider myself very fortunate now to be out of Khartoum and still trying to work on the political process and to get the civilian rhythm back on track. But I’m very relieved that I was unhurt. And if I can just say a very big thank you to so many people who reached out to a variety of means to see whether I was okay and to inquire about my welfare and to give me support. And I think of my colleagues in the External Action Service, my colleagues in the Department of Foreign affairs and the Tánaiste too.

“But so many friends and so many people who I’ve met at some point in the past, even going back to my school days, who somehow managed to find me. And I am very grateful for that. I’ve tried to reply to some people, but there are now so many. It’s been quite overwhelming and I don’t know if I’ll get to reply to everybody in person. So this is a very welcome opportunity to say thank you to people, even though I haven’t been in touch with them”.

Mr O’Hara said he hoped to get back to Khartoum at the earliest opportunity.

Vivienne Clarke

Vivienne Clarke is a reporter