An MP has revealed his life was saved after a tip-off from a republican informer enabled him to escape a paramilitary murder bid.
Democratic Unionist Jeffrey Donaldson said he wanted to make public details of the incident during the Northern Ireland Troubles to add balance to a renewed debate in the region over the contentious use of state agents.
The Lagan Valley MP said the information allowed police to take action and ensured he was not at his Co Down home when the murder squad arrived.
“It’s important that we understand with all this debate that’s going on about the morality of using informers, some of us are alive today because of the use of informers,” he said.
“Every day I thank God that I am alive today because others acted in a way that prevented my death.”
The use of agents has become the focus of intense public scrutiny in the wake of a damning official report that found a police agent was a suspect in the murder of six Catholic men in a country pub in 1994.
The probe by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman into the use of loyalist informers in the Loughinisland massacre came as an independent police investigation got under way into the activities of the Army’s most high-profile IRA agent, Stakeknife.
The ombudsman said the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) killers at Loughinisland had been involved in a number of other murders in the years beforehand, but had avoided arrest because the Royal Ulster Constabulary’s Special Branch intelligence unit had withheld evidence from RUC detectives investigating the crimes.
Stakeknife, the British-paid mole who led the IRA’s internal security unit, is alleged to have been involved in more than 50 murders.
Mr Donaldson said it was important the debate on informers looked at the “full picture”.
“There is big debate now in the aftermath of the Ombudsman’s report about whether it is right to use informers and I just wanted to make clear that lives were saved as a result of the use of informers, my own included,” he said.
“We must not lose sight of that, there’s got to be a sense of balance to this debate and I think that’s important that people understand the full picture and not just partial one.”
Outlining his own experience, the politician said: “This happened a long number of years ago during the Troubles. Essentially there was a republican paramilitary unit that was tasked to carry out a political assassination and I was the designated target.
“I believe the objective was to try to derail the peace process at the time. Fortunately someone, somewhere had access to information and passed it to the police and the police were able to take steps that effectively saved my life at that time.”