Northern Ireland

Joe O'Donnell receives settlement over murder bid collusion claims

Belfast High Court
Image caption The actions were halted at Belfast High Court on Tuesday, with no admission of liability by either defendant

An ex-Sinn Féin councillor and his wife will receive a six-figure settlement over alleged security force collusion in loyalist assassination bids.

Joe O'Donnell, former Belfast deputy lord mayor, and his wife Jacqueline, sued the PSNI and Ministry of Defence.

They claimed the police and Army failed to warn them about planned attacks on their Short Strand home in the 1980s.

The cases were linked to the role of UDA member Brian Nelson who was recruited by the intelligence services.

The actions were halted at Belfast High Court on Tuesday, with no admission of liability by either the Ministry of Defence or PSNI.

'Drive-by shootings'

A lawyer for Mr and Mrs O'Donnell confirmed the total settlement of the two actions would see them receive a combined six-figure sum.

The couple's landmark lawsuits were based on the 2012 findings of a government-ordered review by Sir Desmond de Silva into state collusion with loyalist terrorists.

The cases were linked to state agent Brian Nelson.

Nelson's handlers in the Force Research Unit (FRU) were aware of his role in selecting Mr O'Donnell and other Sinn Féin representatives as potential victims, it was alleged.

But it was claimed neither warnings nor other preventative steps were taken.

Mr O'Donnell's home was repeatedly attacked, with shots fired through windows of the property, according to legal papers.

One of his children was showered by glass in one of the attacks.

Some of the incidents were described as drive-by shootings.

'Deserve closure'

Reinforced doors, locks and steel shutters had to be fitted as the family lived in continuous fear of further assassination attempts on Mr O'Donnell.

Following the resolution, 68-year-old Mr O'Donnell said: "This brings closure for my family and I after a difficult period of more than 30 years.

"It's been a very stressful time for us, but there's also mixed emotions because there are many other people who weren't fortunate enough to survive attacks of this kind.

"Our thought are with their families because they deserve closure."

Mr O'Donnell's solicitor, Setanta Marley of KRW Law, said the settlements were among the first actions based on Sir Desmond's review of alleged collusion and the role of Brian Nelson.

"These cases are an endorsement of the O'Donnell family's determination to challenge the state on the findings contained within de Silva," he said.