Coronation Street star Charlie Lawson says it’s likely that he would have ‘taken up arms’ in the Troubles in Northern Ireland if he hadn’t become an actor.

The star, who has played Jim McDonald in the ITV soap on and off since 1989, went to school in east Belfast in the 1970s, which was then a home to loyalist parliamentary groups.

And he says that while he never joined the fight, things might have been different if the opportunities he was met with hadn’t come along.

He said on TV show Eamonn Mallie: Face To Face With… Charlie Lawson: "I never took up arms. I suspect if I had stayed and not had the opportunities thrown at me and been unemployed staying up the Newtownards Road, I would say it probably would have been highly likely.

"I didn’t meet a Catholic until I was 20 years of age – not extraordinary for the times really, when you think about it.

"But the damage we did to ourselves as human beings and the sheer cruelty and the barbarity of both sides – of what people were willing to do to other people. It’s horrendous and people don’t believe it now. They are not taught about it and they should be."

In the telling interview, he also opened up about how much he regrets putting drink and drugs before his daughter Laura, who is now 31.

He said: "I was pretty hopeless as a dad. I wasn’t interested at all. My grandchildren adore me and for some reason I am good with them.

"But for my own daughter I can offer nothing but sincerest heartfelt apologies about the way I behaved because I was so selfish.

"I left home because I was having a good time and I cared more about drink and drugs and having fun than I did for my family – which is a disgusting thing to have to admit.

"But unfortunately that is the truth. I am trying to make amends for it now."

Charlie also confessed punching a stranger in the face because they mocked him for signing on the dole when his acting work dried up and hit out at those who criticised his decision to vote to leave the EU in the referendum.

* Eamonn Mallie: Face To Face With… Charlie Lawson will air on UTV in Northern Ireland at 11pm tonight

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