IRA had planned to knock out power supply to south east of England

The IRA had planned to knock out the power supply to the south east of England in the final years of its terror campaign, a former member has claimed.

The audacious plan is alleged to have come in the mid 1990s, shortly before the Belfast Agreement peace accord.

Former US Marine turned IRA gun runner John Crawley made the claim in a new programme, as part of a BBC series marking the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of the troubles in Northern Ireland.

US-born former IRA gun runner John Crawley
US-born former IRA gun runner John Crawley (BBC/PA)

The seventh and final episode of Spotlight on the Troubles: A Secret History explores the last IRA bombing campaign in England and the secret talks that brought it to peace.

The IRA broke its 1994 ceasefire in February 1996 when it exploded a bomb in London's docklands, which killed two people and caused an estimated £150 million worth of damage.

In June of the same year it exploded what was reported as the largest bomb to be planted in Great Britain since the Second World War.

More than 200 people were injured in the blast in Manchester and significant damage to infrastructure caused.

The scene in Manchester after an IRA bomb devastated the city and injured more than 200
The scene in Manchester after an IRA bomb devastated the city and injured more than 200 (PA)

The bombs came as Sinn Fein was at logger heads with the UK Government and unionists over calls for the IRA to disarm before the Irish republican party would be admitted to peace talks.

The latest Spotlight programme hears claims that the key IRA bombers had been either caught or killed after extensive surveillance operations by police and MI5.

Mr Crawley, who had previously been caught smuggling guns from the United States for the IRA, told the programme how he was arrested just before a plan to bomb London's electricity supply was carried out.

"We were going to knock out the power supply of the south east of England," he tells the programme.

"And there may have been other operations after that, but we were caught before we could do that."

However he also claimed that the IRA had been left overstretched by the campaign.

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UK USE ONLY : ALL FOREIGNS OUT : A British soldier stands near the scene were local Catholic man was shot dead late this evening (Friday), on the Shaws Road, west Belfast, Northern Ireland. This has been the first shooting since the Northern Ireland Political Parties agreed a settlement at Stormont. UK USE ONLY
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LONDONDERRY, NORTHERN IRELAND - FEBRUARY 15: A man walks in the loyalist Waterside area of Derry on February 15, 2019 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Britain will leave the European Union on March 29 following the referendum in 2016. Many people in Northern Ireland and Ireland are concerned about a return of a so-called hard border, which could inspire unrest reminiscent of the Troubles. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
BELLEEK, NORTHERN IRELAND - FEBRUARY 14: Road signs denote the border crossing in the village of Belleek on February 14, 2019 in Belleek, Northern Ireland. Britain will leave the European Union on March 29 following the referendum in 2016. Many people in Northern Ireland and Ireland are concerned about a return of a so-called hard border, which could inspire unrest reminiscent of the Troubles. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
PETTIGO, NORTHERN IRELAND - FEBRUARY 13: A road sign denotes the crossing of the border in the village of Pettigo on February 13, 2019 in Pettigo, Northern Ireland. Pettigo is unique as it is the only village divided by the border between the UK and Ireland. Britain will leave the European Union on March 29 following the referendum in 2016. Many people in Northern Ireland and Ireland are concerned about a return of a so-called hard border, which could inspire unrest reminiscent of the Troubles. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
PETTIGO, IRELAND - FEBRUARY 13: A cashiers till carries Sterling and Euro currencies on February 13, 2019 in Pettigo, Ireland. Britain will leave the European Union on March 29 following the referendum in 2016. Many people in Northern Ireland and Ireland are concerned about a return of a so-called hard border, which could inspire unrest reminiscent of the Troubles. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
OMAGH, NORTHERN IRELAND - AUGUST 12: 4 year old Poppy Barrett along with family members lay flowers in memory of family friend Aidan Gallagher who lost his life in the Omagh bomb lay flowers as a remembrance service takes place for the victims of the Omagh bombing on it's 20th anniversary on August 12, 2018 in Omagh, Northern Ireland. Twenty-nine people, including a pregnant mother with twins, were killed in a car bomb attack in the town centre in 1998. The attack was carried out by the dissident republican group the Real IRA and inflicted the greatest single loss of life in the history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. No-one has been convicted for the atrocity. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Former US peace envoy to Northern Ireland, Senator George Mitchell, visited Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane today, on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Belfast/Good Friday Ageement. On Monday, April 9, 2018, in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Coiste guide Peadar Whelan is seen in front of a mural as he guides a group of tourists during a political guided tour in west Belfast on March 27, 2018. The murals painted on Belfast's bullet-scared walls to honour the dead serve as a reminder of Northern Ireland's bloody conflict, a story now recounted to tourists by former Republican and Loyalist prisoners. Republican Peadar Whelan is one such guide, having spent 16 years behind bars for trying to kill a British policeman in the late 1970s. The 60-year-old now earns a living recalling his memories of the 'Troubles', which broke out in 1969 and lasted thirty years. Britain and Ireland prepare to mark on April 10, 2018 the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, the peace deal that brought an end to the three decades of violence. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITH (Photo credit should read PAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images)
Coiste guide Peadar Whelan poses in front of a mural as he guides a group of tourists during a political guided tour in west Belfast on March 27, 2018. The murals painted on Belfast's bullet-scared walls to honour the dead serve as a reminder of Northern Ireland's bloody conflict, a story now recounted to tourists by former Republican and Loyalist prisoners. Republican Peadar Whelan is one such guide, having spent 16 years behind bars for trying to kill a British policeman in the late 1970s. The 60-year-old now earns a living recalling his memories of the 'Troubles', which broke out in 1969 and lasted thirty years. Britain and Ireland prepare to mark on April 10, 2018 the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, the peace deal that brought an end to the three decades of violence. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL FAITH (Photo credit should read PAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images)
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BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - APRIL 14: Dissident Republican group Saoradh protest as a Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans rally takes place outside City Hall on April 14, 2017 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The army veterans group had organised the rally in protest at prosecutions against former soldiers in Troubles related cases. The rally and counter protest took place on the anniversary of the Good Friday peace agreement as talks to return political power to Stormont are put on temporary hold. A heavy police presence remained in the city as the rally and counter protest took place. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Dissident Republicans opposed to a protest by Veterans of the Northern Ireland Troubles and of conflicts march to the City Hall where they were stopped at police lines opposite the veterans' protest, in Belfast on April 14, 2017. The veterans' protest was held in response to a number of recent prosecutions of former soldiers in relation to incidents during the region's sectarian conflict. / AFP PHOTO / Paul FAITH (Photo credit should read PAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images)
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A soldier patrols outside a taxi company with smashed windows on the Shankill Road in Belfast, after the British Government ordered troops back into the streets of Northern Ireland, after the murders of two men in an escalating loyalist feud.
British Army soldiers erect barbed wire in the fields opposite Drumcree Church, in the latest security measure put in place by the security forces after continuing violence at Drumcree, with the rerouted march due to take place on 09/07/00.
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Armoured car and troops at the bridge approach in Londonderry.
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Armed troops and barricade at Waterloo Place, the entrance to Londonderry's Bogside.
Troops sprint from their barracks in Holywood, near Belfast to board a truck to take up guard duty.
A British Army soldier on lookout in the Falls Road area of Belfast.
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Mourners panick at Milltown Cemetery, Belfast, after a gun and bomb attack by Michael Stone which left three people dead and four seriously injured during the funerals of three IRA members shot dead in Gibraltar. Northern Ireland Assembly members today evacuated Stormont and abandoned their first meeting since the St Andrews Agreement in a security alert.
Pro-IRA Graffiti on Buildings in Northern Ireland (Photo by Peter Turnley/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)
PA NEWS 21/8/88 THE SHELL OF AN UNMARKED ARMY BUS LIES AT THE ROADSIDE AFTER IT WAS BLOWN APART BY AN IRA BOMB. THE EXPLOSION, NEAR OMAGH IN COUNTY TYRONE,HAPPENED AS THE BUS FERRIED SOLDIERS BACK TO BARRACKS AFTER LEAVE IN ENGLAND AND KILLED EIGHT SOLDIERS AND LEFT 28 INJURED. (Photo by Tony Harris - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
PA NEWS 21/8/88:THE SHELL OF AN UNMARKED ARMY BUS LIES AT THE ROADSIDE AFTER IT WAS BLOWN APART BY AN IRA BOMB. THE EXPLOSION, NEAR OMAGH IN COUNTY TYRONE, HAPPENED AS THE BUS FERRIED SOLDIERS BACK TO BARRACKS AFTER LEAVE IN ENGLAND AND KILLED EIGHT SOLDIERS AND LEFT 28 INJURED. (Photo by Tony Harris - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Security forces at the scene where two men, believed to be soldiers, were killed near St Agnes Church, west Belfast, at the funeral of IRA man Kevin Brady. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
People hold the coffin of Milltown's IRA member Kevin McKraken. (Photo by Bernard Bisson/Sygma via Getty Images)
People march during the funeral for Milltown's IRA member Kevin McKraken. (Photo by Bernard Bisson/Sygma via Getty Images)
The hearses carrying the coffins of the three IRA terrorists shot dead in Gibraltar make their way to Milltoen Cemetery, West Belfast. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
Women with flowers stand in a cemetery during the funeral for three IRA members. (Photo by Bernard Bisson/Sygma via Getty Images)
Following a grenade attack, people help a wounded person in a cemetery during the funeral for three IRA members. (Photo by Bernard Bisson/Sygma via Getty Images)
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Bagpiper marching before flower-trimmed hearse during funeral for Robert Hill (UDR man killed by IRA). (NORTHERN IRELAND) (Photo by Bill Pierce/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
Brown-uniformed marchers next to flower-trimmed hearse during funeral for Robert Hill (UDR man killed by IRA). (NORTHERN IRELAND) (Photo by Bill Pierce/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
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Patrolling British soldiers pass a memorial to IRA hunger strikers in Crossmaglen, County Armagh, Northern Ireland, 25th September 1985. The region is known as 'Bandit Country' and the British Army is obliged to deploy its troops by helicopter to avoid attack by the IRA. (Photo by Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images)
Pro-IRA graffiti in a Catholic residential area of Derry (or Londonderry), Northern Ireland, warning the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) to keep out of the neighborhood, 23rd September 1985. (Photo by Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images)
Panneau en faveur des grévistes de la faim de l'IRA en 1981 à Belfast en Irlande du Nord. (Photo by Jacob SUTTON/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
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"I wondered why they didn't kill us, because we'd have had men tooled up and everything," he said.

"They knew where we were going and to this day, I don't know why they just didn't take us out of it.

"Because coffins coming back on the ferry would've been a nice message to anybody else looking to go.

"And believe me, there wasn't a lot of people putting their hands up to go to England."

John Grieve, who took over Scotland Yard's anti-terror unit on the day of the Canary Wharf bomb, described Mr Crawley and the other IRA bombers as "the A team".

"They were absolutely excellent and one of them, John Crawley, ex-US Marine Corps demolition specialist, this was the top sort of people for them to bring up.

"He just epitomised the cunning, skills, experience, of the sort of people they were putting against us," he told the programme.

The Troubles series has been described by the BBC as one of the "most significant" produced by BBC Northern Ireland.

To date it has reached more than 1.8 million people across the UK and has received more than 1.1 million requests on the BBC iPlayer.

In Northern Ireland, more than half a million people have watched programmes in the series, with the fifth episode the third most watched programme on BBC One Northern Ireland this year so far, after Line Of Duty and Strictly Come Dancing.

The seventh and final episode of the series will be broadcast on Tuesday October 22 on BBC One NI and BBC Four at 8.30pm.

Meanwhile, Spotlight on The Troubles: Behind The Scenes will be shown on Thursday October 24 on BBC One NI at 9pm.

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