The terrorist attack that killed Lord Mountbatten and two children was a “war crime” for which Martin McGuinness was ultimately responsible, former IRA members have claimed.
Speaking in a new BBC documentary being screened on Monday, two former IRA prisoners speak candidly about the murder of the senior royal figure – and the callousness of planting a bomb on a boat knowing children would be present.
Nicholas Knatchbull aged 14 and 15-year-old Paul Maxwell, along with Lady Doreen Brabourne, 83, all died when the IRA bomb exploded on board the former Admiral of the Fleet’s fishing boat on August 27, 1979.
Anthony McIntyre, who served a prison sentence for murder, told the film-makers that his former comrades who planned the attack must have known that children were in mortal danger, while a Dublin-based former IRA ‘intelligence officer’ said the late first minister Martin McGuinness – as Provisional IRA chief of staff at the time – had to “take responsibility”.
McIntyre said that given the magnitude of an attack, on a cousin of the Queen, he believed “that was a decision taken at the most senior level” of the organisation.
“If they knew about the children, and were quite prepared to go ahead and to sacrifice their lives in order to get Mountbatten, then it’s a war crime,” he said.
Commenting on his assertion that Martin McGuinness was in charge at the time of the murders in Co Sligo, Conway said: “That’s the way it works – if you’re the boss you take responsibility for what goes on.”
Sinn has dismissed the claims.
Commenting on the hugely symbolic handshake between the Queen and the Sinn Fein leader in 2012, Conway said: “She is the more admirable person in the transaction. I think it was more difficult for her than for him.”
Sinn Fein’s Raymond McCartney described the allegations against Martin McGuinness as “reprehensible”.
He said: “Martin McGuinness’ leadership and his record in challenging injustice and promoting peace and reconciliation is rightfully held in the highest of esteem across Ireland and internationally.
“It is reprehensible that anyone would make unfounded allegations against a man who is no longer here to defend himself.
Mr McCartney added: “Kieran Conway clearly has no respect for himself or Martin McGuinness, and more importantly for Martin’s wife Bernie and the McGuinness family.”
The film, The Day Mountbatten Died, includes testimony from locals that the Mountbattens were popular in the village of Mullaghmore and that their boat, Shadow V, was left unguarded in the small harbour when not in use.
One villager said there “was a dark cloud over the village” and a collective “sense of shame” for many years afterwards.
The documentary, produced and directed by Sam Collyns is on BBC1 at 9pm. It also features interviews with a number of people whose lives were dramatically altered by another IRA attack just north of the border the same day – two massive bomb blasts that killed 18 soldiers at Narrow Water in Warrenpoint.