Martin McGuinness was personally involved in at least one car bombing and handed bullets to tiny children aged about eight, a BBC Spotlight investigation will next week reveal.
The future deputy First Minister, who is now revered by republicans as a heroic figure, was captured in footage which has never before been broadcast for reasons which remain unclear.
Although it has long been known that Mr McGuinness was an IRA commander, he refused to discuss his actions in the organisation and insisted that he had never killed anyone.
The images will be broadcast next Tuesday in the first part of one of BBC Northern Ireland’s most ambitious projects, a two-year re-examination of the Troubles which will run over seven programmes.
The first programme in the series also includes a former colonel saying that he was shown evidence by the RUC that Ian Paisley, the future First Minister, had supplied the money for explosives which caused one of the first explosions of the Troubles.
The rare footage of an IRA car bomb being assembled was filmed in Londonderry in the early years of the Troubles.
During the programme, former IRA bomber Shane Paul O’Doherty commentated on the pictures, saying: “There’s a huge charge there. A very dangerous alarm clock timer that could blow them all to hell.”
When asked who he recognised, he said: “Well, there’s Martin....Martin McGuinness.” Mr O’Doherty said he was certain that it was the future deputy First Minister, saying “nobody walks like him, with a stoop in his back”.
The car containing the bomb could be identified by its number plate. The BBC programme includes footage of the bomb exploding 30 minutes later in the centre of Mr McGuinness’s home city, Londonderry.
The day after the bombing, Northern Ireland Prime Minister Brian Faulkner was brought to London to be told that security powers would be removed from Stormont and taken on by Westminster, leading to the collapse of Stormont.
The Spotlight programme also includes footage of Mr McGuinness showing guns to young children and handing them bullets while seated in a car.
Commentating on the film pictures, Mr O’Doherty said: “It’s Martin McGuinness. Very young, tall, handling weapons – a rifle and a revolver – rolling up to a load of kids who are staring in the windows, craning in the windows and showing them bullets.
“It’s horrific, really, because here was McGuinness showing eight, nine and 10-year-olds guns and bullets that were exciting. People had a feeling that you were on television, you know, you were superstars.”
The programme does not explain the background to the footage. However, Spotlight reporter Darragh MacIntyre said that it would be made clear in a future film in the series.
He said that it had been shot by an American documentary maker and was never broadcast.
Mr McIntyre, the reporter who in 2010 exposed the then DUP MP Iris Robinson’s affair and financial dealings with property developers, said that the 1972 footage “speaks to a time when within Free Derry and elsewhere in the north there was a sense that the IRA had it won, that they were the original guerrilla fighters and within a matter of months would see their way to a new united Ireland...so they were quite free - not just Martin McGuinness - when they were filming with this documentary team”.
In 2015, Mr McGuinness told the journalist Eamonn Mallie that he was “very proud that I was a part of the IRA in Derry” but declined to say whether he had ever killed anyone.
Last month, former IRA member Kieran Conway said that as the IRA’s chief of staff at the time of the attack which killed Lord Mountbatten and others, including two children, Mr McGuinness had to “take responsibility” for what had happened that day.
Another former IRA man, Anthony McIntyre, said of that attack: “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”.
However, Sinn Féin MLA and former IRA man Raymond McCartney denounced such criticism of Mr McGuinness, saying that he was “held in the highest of esteem across Ireland and internationally”.
The Foyle MLA said: “It is reprehensible that anyone would make unfounded allegations against a man who is no longer here to defend himself.”
Spotlight on The Troubles – a Secret History involve two 90-minute programmes and five hour-long episodes. The series has been overseen by editor Jeremy Adams, deputy editor Gwyneth Jones and producer Chris Thornton. It involves three senior Spotlight reporters – Darragh MacIntyre, Jennifer O’Leary and Mandy McAuley.
The first programme will be broadcast on BBC One NI on Tuesday at 8.30pm and will also be shown on BBC Four across the UK at the same time.