An IRA bombing atrocity that killed nine people 40 years ago in the village of Claudy in Co Londonderry was appalling and indefensible, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness has said.
The Stormont Deputy First Minister sparked controversy two years ago when he revealed having met a Catholic priest allegedly implicated in the car bombings that rocked the community in 1972.
Mr McGuinness said Fr James Chesney never mentioned Claudy when they met shortly before the clergyman's death from cancer in 1980.
Relatives of those killed in the attack have said they have now met a further suspect in the case, but demanded the full truth surrounding the three car bombings that killed nine people, including two teenagers and an eight-year-old girl.
The Claudy bombing was one of the worst atrocities of the Troubles and while no group accepted responsibility for the attack it was widely believed to be the work of the IRA.
Mr McGuinness said: "The deaths and injuries caused in Claudy on July 31, 1972 were wrong. The events of that day were appalling and indefensible and they should not have happened. All of the deaths and injuries inflicted on totally innocent people in this quiet village 40 years ago should motivate everyone in our society to ensure such terrible tragedies never happen again."
In a statement, he added: "Today marks the anniversary of Claudy. It is also the 40th anniversary of two unarmed young men from Creggan in Derry who were shot by the British Army. Last week it was Bloody Friday. Next week is the anniversary of the killing of 19 people in Ballymurphy during internment week.
"It is my firm view that we need to find a better way of dealing with the legacy of the conflict which goes beyond individual acts of commemoration or remembrance and begins to deal with the very real hurt that exists throughout our society.
"All of the families of those who died or were injured deserve and are entitled to the truth about the deaths of their loved ones."
Mr McGuinness, a former IRA leader, said: "We must collectively increase our efforts to heal the deep hurt caused by the Claudy bombings and all of the suffering in 1972, and continue to build on the progress of our peace process."