That was hard." The hospice he vowed to build as a result now cares for hundreds of patients a year; not only that, it has just won South Africa's top clinical award for palliative care.It even brings life – in the form of anti-retroviral drugs – to those who would otherwise die of their disease. It was an immense sense of loneliness and betrayal of the trust I had invested for all those difficult years into the community." By the time he did get to hospital, his left lung had collapsed and he was to die – only to be resuscitated – on the operating table.
I was going to be a priest one day." No-one else had much of an inkling of that calling, and he says that his choice was never easy. At 14 he witnessed the IRA murder a taxi driver and passenger outside his house: the gunman shot at him, too, as he stared from the street corner, whilst his sister cradled one of the dying men in her arms.A short time later Creagh narrowly avoided being killed when the local petrol station he'd just visited was bombed.The irony was that he was now facing the end of his own, most extraordinary, life.* Kieran Creagh was born during a troubled time in Ireland's history.One of his own priests, a fellow Passionist, later died of AIDS.
And then there was the never-ending series of funerals for the pauper AIDS victims, and stories of people trudging home to their villages to die."The third shot was like a fist going right up into my body.I really felt that," says the mild-mannered Belfast priest with a shudder, as he recalls the night in February 2007 when a criminal gang attacked his South African hospice. They just rang the bell outside in the courtyard and I thought, 'Oh, something must have happened in one of the wards'. I opened the door…and that's when they grabbed me." Leratong – the name means "place of love" in one of the six local languages spoken here – had been set up by Father Creagh in 2004, a single-minded effort to help tackle the massive HIV/AIDS crisis crushing the nation."Her mother later came to me and said she wanted to see her daughter: I said let’s go and see her.I called them, and they said no she wasn’t there, they didn’t know who she was. It turned out she had died three weeks ago and I had to tell this woman there and then her daughter was three weeks dead."I saw the Sisters work there with such dignity, such love, it was amazing," he says.