Martin McGuiness IRA bomb footage strengthens belief of Claudy families

People whose lives were devastated by the Claudy bombings have had their convictions that Martin McGuinness was involved strengthened by new footage showing him involved with a car bomb only four months earlier.

Saturday, 7th September 2019, 7:00 am
IRA men, one of whom is allegedly Martin McGuinness, load what appears to be components for an explosive device into a car in Derry in 1972. Photo: BBC NI Spotlight.

Victims spoke out after BBC Spotlight revealed film of IRA members assembling a car bomb in Londonderry in 1972, with Mr McGuinness clearly appearing to be part of the unit.

The footage from a US source, which was never before broadcast, was shot on March 21, 1972. Just over four months later, on July 31, 1972, three no-warning bombs exploded about 10 miles outside Londonderry in the village of Claudy, killing nine people, two of whom were children.

Although it never claimed responsibility, and nobody was ever convicted, the authorities found the IRA was responsible.

Claudy bomb survivor Mary Hamilton and David Temple, whose brother William was killed in the attack, attending the memorial to those killed on the 40th Anniversary of the atrocity. Photo: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Former UUP councillor Mary Hamilton was seriously injured in the Claudy attack and still suffers serious pain daily as a result.

“This footage just makes us feel that what we said all along was true - that Martin McGuinness was involved in the Claudy bombing,” she said.

Mr McGuinness, the former deputy first minister, promised to meet the Claudy families many times to discuss the matter, she said. “But he never did.”

“That footage would have been just before the Claudy bombing. And if he did that one he might have done others.

“We still say that he was closely involved in the Claudy bombing, that he was second in command of the IRA in the area at that time.”

Although Mr McGuinness said he was proud of being an IRA commander in Londonderry in the early 1970s, she added: “He never did [admit it] to us.”

“He was to come and meet the people of Claudy but he didn’t. He said he didn’t do anything but he didn’t come to meet us.”

David Temple, whose 16-year-old brother William was killed by the bombs while doing milk deliveries, said the footage has also strengthened his convictions about McGuinness.

“That is horrible to hear,” he said of the footage. “But he was always an IRA man and that goes to prove it, along with many other things that he did.

“This takes away everything that was said about him being truthful and honest to the people. I always said he was involved in Claudy. That is why he never wanted to meet the people of Claudy.

“He always said he wanted to meet them... but we knew he was involved in Claudy. The families made repeated requests to meet Mr McGuinness but he would never meet us.”

Mr Temple said he will watch the BBC programme when it airs next week “although it will be hard for me”.

He said his “feelings will be of anger” in relation to what was widely said about Mr McGuinness in his latter years as deputy first minister.

“People said he was this, that and the other, but at the end of the day we always knew his hands were involved in Claudy and many more atrocities.”

A report in The Daily Telegraph in 2017, cited an anonymous source who said that around 2007 police were preparing to quiz Mr McGuinness about the Claudy killings, but that the probe was dropped due to political considerations. Police at the time declined to confirm or deny Mr McGuinness had been in line to be questioned.

Mr Temple said that he had heard this tale “many times”.

The PSNI has said four people were arrested in relation to the atrocity in 2005, but the PPS decided not to prosecute them, and that interviews in 2013 and 2014 failed to yield any new information.

In 2010 Mr McGuinness said he forgot a deathbed conversation he had with an IRA member and priest suspected of playing a leading role the Claudy bombings.

Mr McGuinness told the BBC in 2002 he had never met Fr James Chesney, but in 2010 he revealed they had met.

“It was an omission on my part and it was a mistake,” he said, affirming that he was willing to meet the Claudy families to discuss the matter.

Also in 2010, the police ombudsman said that the police, the Catholic Church and the state conspired to cover up Fr Chesney’s role as an IRA leader and his suspected role in the Claudy bombings,

Mr McGuinness had said he became aware of “justified” complaints that he did not make a public statement at the time of the police ombudsman report.

“I wasn’t in the country when the police ombudsman’s report was issued, but I had decided that the families were entitled to the truth,” he said.

In 2002, Mr McGuinness issued a statement to BBC Northern Ireland current affairs programme Spotlight, saying: “I have never met Father Chesney, nor do I have any knowledge of him other than from media reports.”

• The Troubles - A Secret History will air on BBC One NI on Tuesday at 8.30pm.