Not all informers were evil killers, one saved my life, reveals Donaldson
Newly knighted DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson has revealed he owes his life to a republican informer who tipped off police about a plot to kill him.
The Lagan Valley MP said the mole may also have saved the lives of his wife and family.
The 53-year-old made the disclosure yesterday as he defended the use of State informers and agents.
He said details from such people once prevented four out of every five terror attacks.
The controversy over informers was reignited this week, firstly by the publication of a damning Police Ombudsman's report into the Loughinisland massacre which found there had been collusion between RUC officers and UVF killers who shot dead six Catholics in the village in 1994.
Then, 24 hours later, an independent police investigation of the agent codenamed Stakeknife was launched.
Mr Donaldson said he was speaking publicly for the first time about the murder plot against him because he wanted to show there were two sides to the informers debate.
He added he would be forever grateful to the agent who warned his or her handlers that terrorists were about to kill him at his home in Moira.
The Kilkeel-born politician, whose policemen cousins Samuel and Alexander Donaldson were murdered by the IRA, did not say which group the information had come from.
"Someone, somewhere - I do not know who - had access to information and, thankfully, passed it on to the police, who were able to take action that effectively saved my life," he said.
"I didn't know much of the detail, but I wasn't around when the attack was due."
Mr Donaldson said that the RUC would only initially tell him that a "credible source" had provided them details, but he later found out about the involvement of an agent from someone he trusted.
Mr Donaldson, a former UDR soldier, told how he understood that the information had been "very specific", but he added that no one had been arrested in connection with the plot.
The politician would not divulge the exact date of the planned attack, only that it was in the 1990s.
It is understood that the attempt to murder him was to have been carried out during sensitive negotiations to bring about the peace process.
Mr Donaldson insisted he had no interest in discovering the identity of the informer, but he acknowledged that it was possible he might have met him or her over the course of subsequent years.
"I would be surprised if somewhere along the line of my journey through the peace process I haven't met the person who passed that information on to police," he said.
Referring to the renewed row surrounding informers, Mr Donaldson added: "I feel it is important that when people look at this issue, they understand that it isn't black and white.
"Undoubtedly, there were agents and informers whose actions saved the lives of many people. I think that needs to be borne in mind.
"I'm not the only person who is alive today because of the actions of agents and informers.
"I know other colleagues who are in a similar situation to me, and it's not just politicians. There are many other people whose lives were spared."
Asked about claims that the police, Army and intelligence services had turned a blind eye to the activities of many of their agents, the MP replied: "There were a lot of things that happened during the Troubles that with the benefit of hindsight we might question.
"But I think there's equally an argument which says that without the penetration of the paramilitary groups, we might not have had the peace process.
"In the end, we have to make a judgement - would we be where we are today if agents hadn't been infiltrating and undermining the paramilitary organisations? I don't believe that we would."
Mr Donaldson said that at times during the Troubles, police were preventing four out of five paramilitary attacks in Northern Ireland because of information obtained from agents.
"We need to have a balanced approach to this, and we need to understand that there are good sides to this and there are not so good sides to this," he added.
"But the idea that you can run a counter-insurgency strategy without getting your hands dirty is the stuff of mythology.
"What I will not do is stand back and allow the good name of the RUC to be blackened because I know that the vast majority of men and women who served in the police were and are good upstanding people who believed passionately in the rule of law and whose sole motivation was saving and protecting life."
Mr Donaldson also noted that the Loughinisland families were entitled to justice, and he hoped the evidence could be found to secure the convictions of the "brutal killers".
He said the DUP was clear that if there was evidence that anyone in the police had interfered with the Loughinisland investigation or inhibited it, it was wrongdoing and they should be dealt with.
He added that the Ombudsman's report had found that the police had no advance information about the attack on the Heights Bar, which claimed the lives of six men who were watching a World Cup match on television.