Northern Ireland

Loyalist gun victim to receive £90,000 in damages

The High Court in Belfast

A loyalist gun victim will receive £90,000 in damages after claiming a British army spy targeted him for murder, the High Court has heard.

Eamon Heatley, 61, sued the Ministry of Defence (MoD) over the alleged role of clandestine agent Brian Nelson in setting up the attempt on his life.

Mr Heatley, a Catholic man, was shot up to five times by loyalists at his home near north Belfast in August 1988.

A gunman posing as a taxi driver fired into the house on Elmfield Road.

Mr Heatley was wounded in the chest and leg and spent a period in intensive care, suffered long-term psychiatric injuries and was unable to return to work for six years after the shooting, according to his lawyers.

High Court proceedings on Wednesday, centred on the part allegedly played by Nelson, an Ulster Defence Association (UDA) member, who was said to have been recruited to work for British intelligence.

Lawyers for Mr Heatley claimed negligence around failures to either warn him his life was in danger or to thwart the attack.

Targeting the plaintiff

Legal papers set out that Nelson, a former British soldier who died in 2003, was actively involved in targeting the plaintiff and others for murder.

His handlers in the Force Research Unit (FRU), a branch of military intelligence, were aware of his role in selecting potential victims, it was alleged.

The case was listed for a two-day hearing at the High Court in Belfast.

But counsel for Mr Heatley, Brian Fee QC, announced a resolution had been reached following out of court discussions.

He confirmed: "The action is settled for £90,000 and costs (to Mr Heatley)."

Entering judgment for the plaintiff, Mr Justice Horner said: "The parties are to be congratulated in resolving their differences."

Outside court Mr Heatley's solicitor, Jack Quigley of Madden and Finucane, said the outcome fully vindicated his decision to bring a lawsuit against the MoD.

Mr Quigley said: "My client and his family have battled for 30 years to gain recognition of the wrongs perpetrated against him by the state.

"They welcome today's settlement and the relevant closure that it brings, and now look forward to moving on with their family life."

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