The two now deceased politicians who led Sinn Féin and the DUP into power-sharing are the subject of serious allegations in a BBC Northern Ireland television series.

Footage from 1972 of Martin McGuinness handling guns and bullets and showing them to young children features in the first episode of the Spotlight BBC's 'On The Troubles' series.

The programme also shows pictures which it claims link Mr McGuinness to the preparation of a car bomb that later exploded in Derry city centre, causing extensive damage.

The bombing took place in March 1972 and added to the pressure on the Unionist-led Stormont government that collapsed the following day.

The programme shows footage of Martin McGuinness showing bullets to young children (Pic: BBC NI)

The programme makers also claim that DUP leader Ian Paisley financed the UVF bombers who attacked water and infrastructure installations in Northern Ireland in 1969.

The same loyalist paramilitary gang attempted to blow up an ESB sub-station in Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, in October 1969 and one of the bombers, Thomas McDowell, was electrocuted.

The first documentary in the series, presented by Darragh McIntyre, will be screened on Tuesday 10 September.

It claims that the Provisional IRA was set up at a meeting in the Athlone home of a Protestant republican, Victor Fagg, in December 1969.

The house in Athlone where the programme claims the Provisional IRA was set up (Pic: BBC NI)

It also refers to what it says was a confidential assessment made by the most senior British Army officer in 1972 that the British Army should gradually escape from its commitment to the border.

The programme says the officer who served as the British Army’s chief of the General Staff was effectively recommending a united Ireland.

The Martin McGuinness footage is US material that was never broadcast.

It shows Mr McGuinness, then in his early 20s, sitting in a car in Derry, handling a revolver with a rifle alongside it and allowing a group of young boys to see the weapons and bullets through the windows of the parked vehicle.

It also has film material of an IRA car bomb being prepared in Derry.

A former IRA member, Shane Paul O'Doherty, now living in Spain, identifies the person who walks behind the blue Volkswagen vehicle as Martin McGuinness.

The bomb was subsequently detonated at the bottom of Shipquay Street in Derry city centre and caused extensive damage to property, but no deaths.

The scene in Derry city centre following the explosion (Pic: BBC NI)

The footage featuring McGuinness was from 1972. The following year, he was convicted of IRA membership by the Special Criminal Court in Dublin. He refused to recognise the court and was sentenced to six months' imprisonment.

Rev Ian Paisley, who died in September 2014, always denied allegations linking him to Loyalist paramilitary organisations.

But the BBC programme includes an interview with a former British Army officer who claims the founder of the DUP had financed the loyalist bombers who carried out a bombing campaign in 1969.

The officer, David Hancock, who was a British Army Company Commander in Northern Ireland from 1968 to 1970, said the local (RUC) District Inspector told him that "Paisley had supplied the money that financed the Kilkeel explosion".

A reservoir at Kilkeel, Co Down, was one of the facilities attacked by the bombers in 1969.

The programme also alleges that one of Ian Paisley’s bodyguards, Samuel Stevenson, was involved with the bombers. 

A founding member of the SDLP, a former Fine Gael TD and a former Fine Gael Presidential candidate, Austin Currie, claims during the documentary that Mr Stevenson told him in October 1969 the gang intended to blow up an ESB sub-station in Ballyshannon, Co Donegal. 

In the subsequent attack, one of the loyalist bombers, 45-year-old Thomas McDowell, a father of ten from Kilkeel, was electrocuted and died from his injuries.

The claims about the establishment of the Provisional IRA are made by Republican Sinn Féin veteran Des Long.

He alleges that a meeting took place at the Athlone home of Victor Fagg in the days immediately before Christmas in 1972. (Victor Fagg was interned in the 1940s and following his death in 1988, Ruairí Ó Brádaigh spoke at his graveside in Athlone).

Victor Fagg (Pic: BBC NI)

Lord Michael Carver, who died in 2001 aged 86, is one of the senior British Army officers who features in the programme.

In 1971, he was appointed the British Army’s chief of the general staff and his role involved providing advice to the British government on the response to the early stages of The Troubles.

The programme makers suggest that a 1972 assessment by Carver, so sensitive that it was seen by only one British government minister, recommended that "the British government gradually escape its commitment to the border" and that his report amounted to the recommendation of a united Ireland.

A picture of the assessment by Lord Michael Carver (Pic: BBC NI)

Another former British Army officer who features in the programme is 84-year-old Lord David Ramsbotham. He subsequently served as the Inspector of Prisons in England and Wales for a five-year period. 

In the early 1970s, he was the military aide to Lord Carver. In an interview, Lord Ramsbotham tells how a fellow British Army officer described members of the 1st Battalion of the Parachute Regiment as "hooligans in uniform".

The criticism came in a conversation in the days immediately before Bloody Sunday when the soldiers were involved in killing 13 civilians in Derry city.

Ian Paisley Junior has criticised what he called "a scum" programme.

In a phone call to the BBC's Stephen Nolan programme, Mr Paisley said there is no truth to the allegations made by a "minor functionary" in the British Army.

He said the BBC documentary is due to be broadcast on the fifth anniversary of his father's death and is "calculated to be deliberately hurtful".  

The North Antrim MP said the allegations were "based on evidence that nobody was allowed to see" and he also claimed that nobody had contacted his father about them.

'Spotlight On The Troubles: A Secret History' is a seven-part series investigating The Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Presented by Mandy McAuley, Jennifer O’Leary and Darragh McIntyre, it will be broadcast simultaneously on BBC One NI and BBC Four. The first programme will be screened on Tuesday next at 8.30pm.