South east England's power supply was the target of an IRA plot in the final years of its terror campaign, a former member has claimed.

The plan, which is alleged to have been formed in the mid 1990s, was formed shortly before the Belfast Agreement was formed.

A former US Marine turned IRA gun runner, John Crawley, made the claim in a new programme marking the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of troubles in Northern Ireland.

US-born former IRA gun runner John Crawley Credit: BBC/PA

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 told the BBC documentary.

“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.

“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.”

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

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