Northern Ireland

Former Provo Kieran Conway claims Martin McGuinness sanctioned Lord Mountbatten killing

One-time IRA director of intelligence Kieran Conway
One-time IRA director of intelligence Kieran Conway One-time IRA director of intelligence Kieran Conway

SINN Féin has said a claim that Martin McGuinness was the IRA's chief of staff when it murdered Lord Mountbatten in 1979 is "unfounded."

The allegation will be aired in a new documentary to mark the 40th anniversary of one of the bloodiest days of the Troubles.

The Day Mountbatten Died will be broadcast on BBC2 on Monday and seeks to retell the events of August 27 1979, a day which also saw the ambush of a convoy of British soldiers at Narrow Water near Warrenpoint in Co Down.

Eighteen soldiers and one civilian were killed in the attack – the biggest loss of military life in a single day during the Troubles.

The programme is expected to air the claim by one-time IRA director of intelligence Kieran Conway that the former deputy first minister, who died in March 2017, was the Provisional IRA's chief of staff in August 1979.

Mr McGuinness told the Bloody Sunday inquiry that he left the IRA in 1974.

Lord Mountbatten and one of his twin grandsons Nicholas (14), and Paul Maxwell (15) a local employed as a boat boy, were killed when a bomb planted by the IRA exploded on their boat in Mullaghmore, Co Sligo. Another passenger, Baroness Brabourne, 82, died the day after the attack.

Conway says the former Mid-Ulster MP, who shook hands with Queen Elizabeth in 2012, approved the attack on her husband’s uncle.

He says an attempt on Mountbatten’s life had been actively considered since the mid-1970s.

"There was an operation cleared to kill Mountbatten – he was to be ambushed either exiting or entering his castle [by] four or five men, [who would] then open up on the car," the former IRA man says.

The planned attack did not get the go-ahead from the IRA army council, but according to Conway, when Mr McGuinness became chief of staff, the targetting of Lord Mountbatten, who was also Queen Elizabeth's second cousin once removed, was sanctioned

"I wouldn’t have said it until Martin died, that McGuinness was chief of staff,” he says.

Asked if Sinn Féin's chief negotiator was ultimately responsible for the attack, he responds: "That’s right, yeah, that’s the way it works – if you’re the boss, you’re the boss you take responsibility for whatever goes on."

Conway, now a solicitor in Dublin, is said to have left the IRA twice, first in the 1975 – before rejoining in 1981 – and finally in 1993.

But Sinn Féin MLA Raymond Mc Cartney said the allegation was "unfounded".

"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," the Foyke representative said.

"It is reprehensible that anyone would make unfounded allegations against a man who is no longer here to defend himself – Kieran Conway clearly has no respect for himself or Martin McGuinness and more importantly for Martin’s wife Bernie and the McGuinness family."