Ian Paisley supplied money to UVF for bombings in 1969, documentary claims

Programme shows clips of Martin McGuinness preparing bomb used in Derry attack

A new BBC TV series on the Troubles claims former DUP leader Ian Paisley supplied money to the Ulster Volunteer Force to carry out a number of bombings in 1969.

The seven-part series, which starts on Tuesday, also contains rare footage of former deputy first minister Martin McGuinness, of Sinn Féin, allegedly preparing a car bomb for an IRA attack on Derry’s Guildhall in 1972.

The series, Spotlight on the Troubles: A Secret History, also reveals a "top secret" memorandum from 1972 in which British army commander Gen Michael Carver proposed as a "lasting solution" to the conflict that the British government gradually escape from the "commitment to the Border".

The allegations against Paisley in the first programme of the series relate to a number of bombings of water and electricity installations that the UVF and a group called the Ulster Protestant Volunteers carried out in early 1969.


At the time, the unionist prime minister Terence O’Neill was trying to bring in reforms to meet some of the demands of the civil rights movement.

The UVF hoped the bombings against targets such as the Silent Valley reservoir in the Mourne mountains and the water pipeline at Annalong, Co Down, would be blamed on the IRA. The plan was that it would generate further unionist hostility to an already beleaguered O'Neill and force him to resign.

At the time, Paisley had been mounting a campaign of protest against O'Neill, who resigned at the end of April 1969 under claims he had lost control in Northern Ireland.

The programme cites a police intelligence report of the period that said the UVF was linked to Paisley, a connection the cleric denied.

Viaduct explosion

Former British army officer David Hancock, who served as a major in Northern Ireland from 1968 to 1970, told the programme an RUC district inspector in Kilkeel, Co Down, informed him Paisley had supplied money for the bombings.

Mr Hancock, who was stationed nearby, actually heard the Annalong viaduct explosion and said he felt at the time it did “not have the footprint of the IRA”.

Mr Hancock recalled: “I was good friends with the district inspector down in Kilkeel. He showed me the evidence that they had of the involvement of money from Paisley into what was then called the UVF, where they got the explosives from, how it was carried out, who did it, and why.”

The programme also reports that Samuel Stevenson, Paisley's bodyguard in 1969, told former SDLP and Fine Gael politician Austin Currie the UVF was planning to bomb the hydroelectric power station at Ballyshannon, Co Donegal. In that attack in October 1969, Thomas McDowell was killed when his bomb exploded prematurely.

Mr Currie told the programme Mr Stevenson warned him of the planned attack and also told him he was supposed to be part of the UVF bomb team, but that he would try to avoid being involved.

McGuinness footage

The programme also features footage of Mr McGuinness in Derry in 1972 that shows him sitting in a car while children crane in the window to look at bullets. It shows him handling a pistol while talking to them. A rifle lies beside McGuinness in the car.

There is also film of IRA members assembling a car bomb in Derry, with Mr McGuinness clearly appearing to be part of the unit. The bomb was then used to damage the Guildhall in March 1972, as was evident from the car’s registration.

The day after the attack, in which no one was killed, Stormont prime minister Brian Faulkner was brought to London by UK prime minister Edward Heath to be told the unionist government was being stripped of security powers. Mr Faulkner's government resigned and direct rule was introduced from Britain shortly afterwards.

The McGuinness footage came from an American documentary that was never shown in Britain or Ireland. Mr McGuinness admitted he was in the IRA, although he claimed to have left the organisation in 1974.

The first programme in the series also covers Bloody Sunday on January 30th, 1972, and reports how an officer from another regiment described the First Parachute Regiment responsible for 14 deaths in Derry as “hooligans in uniform”.

This comment was made shortly before Bloody Sunday and after members of the regiment were accused of brutally dealing with an anti-internment march on Magilligan Strand in Co Derry on January 22nd.

Top secret briefing

The programme features part of a "top secret" briefing to British government defence secretary Peter Carrington in May 1972 from Gen Michael Carver headed "Army Aims in Northern Ireland". In it Gen Carver said the IRA had strengthened its military position since the collapse of Stormont, while the British army was losing the military initiative.

Gen Carver appeared to be proposing the British government should facilitate the creation of a united Ireland. “If I am right, and we want a lasting solution, it must be in finding a way in which HMG can gradually escape from the commitment to the border,” he wrote, adding that the “answer appears to lie with the plebiscite”.

The series is edited by Jeremy Adams and produced by Chris Thornton, one of the authors of the Lost Lives book of those killed during the Troubles. The reporters for the series, which took two years to make, are Darragh MacIntyre, Mandy McAuley and Jennifer O'Leary.

The first programme will broadcast on Tuesday, September 10th, at 8.30pm on BBC1 Northern Ireland and BBC4.

Future episodes will deal with issues such as how the IRA sustained its campaign, the intelligence war against the IRA and loyalist paramilitaries, the loyalist Glenanne Gang and how the Troubles were brought to an end.

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times