State Violence and Collusion Timeline 1989

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Events related to state violence and collusion in Northern Ireland in 1989.


  • 10 - An FRU contact form records that loyalist L/28 had asked Brian Nelson "to put together all the information he had on Sinn Fein members in Belfast" for the following morning. After collecting the necessary information from the Intelligence Cell, Nelson worked on the detailed packs at his home during the evening, which he then handed over to L/28 early the next day. He was able to tell his handlers who ten of the individuals concerned were, but was unable to remember the names of "three or four additional personalities". The De Silva report concludes that one of those "additional personalities" must have been T/22.[1]
  • 30 - A search in the Shankill area of Belfast recovered 2,500 rounds of ammunition and firearms including a machine gun.[2]


  • 12 - Pat Finucane shot dead in front of his family at his North Belfast home.[4]
  • 22 - Patrick Feeney, a 32-year-old Catholic, shot dead at the linen mill where he worked as a security guard by the UDA/UFF, who had been given a file on him by Brian Nelson. He had no paramilitary connections.[6]
  • 28 - Bryan Nelson visited loyalist L/38 on 28 February with L/03 and explained to him that he "had a comprehensive list of personalities" living in the Fermanagh area. L/38 was said to be "most enthusiastic" about carrying out the targeting, and Nelson promised him that he would send photographs of the individuals concerned.[1]


  • 2 - An FRU contact form of this date recorded Brian Nelson's plan to share targeting information with L/38, who was based in County Fermanagh.[1]
  • 9 - An FRU contact form of this date indicated that L/38 confirmed safe receipt of photographs when Nelson telephoned him. Although Nelson would have been able to inform his handlers about the personalities to be targeted, there is no indication of him notifying his handlers, nor of them seeking that information from him.[1]
  • 28 - Brian Nelson visited L/04 of the UVF at his home to discourage him from targeting T/02, on the grounds that T/02 had become aware that he was a loyalist target and had changed his routines accordingly. He suggested to L/04 that Thomas Keenan and Alex Maskey would be "much better targets". A deal was agreed whereby the UVF would provide the UDA with explosives in exchange for targeting information on Keenan and Maskey.[1]


  • April Undated - A more senior handler, Colour Sergeant A/10 became Nelson's main handler.[1]
  • 3 - Nelson takes L/04 to 'recce' Keenan's house and the workplace of Maskey's wife, from which Maskey regularly collected her. At L/04's request, Nelson also agrees to write down all his targeting information on Maskey and Keenan.[1]
  • 4 - L/04 told Nelson that the UVF would arrange delivery of, and pay for, a limpet mine to be supplied to the UDA.[1]
  • 4 - 29-year-old Gerard Casey, an IRA member from Rasharkin in North Antrim, was shot dead by the UDA/UFF, using intelligence documents supplied by Brian Nelson.[7]
  • 7 - An FRU contact form records Brian Nelson telling his handlers that no arms had been imported as a result of his 1985 trip to South Africa. He is reported to have said that, "when I went the deal did not materialise because the UDA could not fund the purchase.[8]
  • 6 - An FRU contact form records Nelson passed vehicle registrations to Tommy 'Tucker' Lyttle and told him "that Pat McGeown was seen in the first vehicle and [T/06] was in the second car".[1]
  • 7 - An FRU contact form indicates that Nelson found out that L/04 had been seeking further targeting information, this time in relation to T/02. The handler noted that: "[Nelson] feels that if the UDA are not going to act then it is better that the UVF do it than no one. Although the UVF are not particular about their targets they appear to be more aggressive." Rather than admonishing Nelson for the above exchange of targeting information with the UVF, handler A/13 appeared actively to welcome it by commenting that: "If this is successful it will enhance [Nelson's] standing with [L/28], particularly if the UVF carry out an attack on one of the targets for which [Nelson] supplied the information." The contact form also showed that Nelson had discussed with L/04 the targeting of T/44, whom it appears that the UVF were "desperate to get". A/13 commented: "… it shows that the UVF are far from the mark regarding targeting, not being sure who they are targeting, but once they have the correct target they act. The UVF are probably desperate to attack a heavily traced PIRA member to make up for their sectarian attacks of late."[1]
  • 10 Brian Nelson informs his handlers of vehicle registration numbers that the UDA were checking with their security force 'contact'.[1]
  • 11 - RUC SACC Blair Wallace indicated that he had raised the matter of agent-handling guidance with Minister of State, Ian Stewart, on 11 April 1989 "and was told that it had not been forgotten about".[9]
  • 28 - In a note to the Attorney-General, the Security Service legal adviser recommended that the Home Office Guidelines be amended "to allow effective but properly supervised use of agents in countering terrorism."[9]


  • 13 - FRU meeting with Brian Nelson at which handler A/10 records: "The source then went on to surprise his handlers by asking for their assistance in pinpointing the identities of certain personalities featured in the photos! This was an unexpected request by the source. The co-handler [A/12] discreetly went to make coffee whilst the handler made it clear to the source that he had just made a grave mistake."[1]
  • 15 - submission to Secretary of State for Northern Ireland invites him to agree that an interdepartmental working group on agent-handling be established under NIO chairmanship, in which there would be representatives of the Home Office, the Security Service and the RUC.[9]
  • 24 - Liam McKee, a 39-year-old Catholic from Lisburn, was shot dead by the UDA/UFF. Although Nelson's files listed him as an IRA member, he had no paramilitary connections.[10]
  • 27 - A letter from Senior Assistant Chief Constable (SACC) Blair Wallace to the RUC Chief Constable expresses frustration at the slow pace of progress on agent-handling guidelines.[9]


  • July undated - Brian Nelson received a report on the movements of solicitor Paddy McGrory. Although he passed the details on to his FRU handlers, McGrory was never warned. In the event, no attempt was made on his life.[11] According to journalist John Ware, the information was never entered on the official FRU record.[12]
  • 4 - Browning pistol used in the killing of Pat Finucane recovered from a house off the Shankill.[13]
  • 4 - Northern Ireland Secretary agrees to set up a Working Group on agent-handling.[9]
  • 13 - A minute of this date from the then MI5 Director General indicated that the Security Service did not consider itself bound by Home Office guidelines on agent-handling as "… there is already a mechanism for feeding the results of considerations in Northern Ireland into the Home Office".[9]


  • 8 - Brian Nelson is visited at his house by L/41 on behalf of L/13, a member of the UVF. L/41 explained that L/13 had recently 'lost' targeting information provided to him earlier on republicans, particularly members of the IPLO. Nelson apparently drove to his store where he retrieved "approximately half of his stock of photos showing Republican personalities". He and L/41 then photocopied them, after which L/41 took the copies away to give to L/13. On the same day, Nelson met another member of the UVF, L/04, who supplied him with targeting information on republican paramilitaries.[1]
  • 9 Nelson retrieved photographs from his files that matched some of the personalities named by L/04 and supplied these to the UVF member.[1]
  • 16 - FRU contact form records Nelson proliferation of targeting material to the UVF. The contact form records the following comment by A/01, Officer Commanding (OC) of the FRU's East Detachment (East Det FRU) regarding this information: "This is a worrying element indicating that a member with possible access to CRUCIBLE [a security force database] may be passing information to PPM's."[1]
  • 25 - Loughlin Maginn, a 28-year-old Catholic from Rathfriland in Co. Down, was shot dead by the UDA/UFF.[14]
  • 30 - An FRU contact form indicates that Nelson proposed Brendan Hughes to L/22 as a target, and provided L/22 with his accommodation address and the registrations of "two cars known to belong to Hughes". One of those two cars was the car with the registration provided to Nelson in January 1988, though Nelson doubted whether Hughes was still using that car.[1]



  • 8 - Brian Nelson informs his FRU handlers that L/22 had shot T/27 in 1985. This information was passed to the RUC in a MISR.[8]
  • 9 - Second meeting of the Northern Ireland Office Working Group on agent-handling agrees that a new set of guidelines is needed.[9]
  • 22 - An FRU contact form records Nelson having told L/28 that he had three targets for L/22, one of whom was T/06.[1]


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 Sir Desmond de Silva, Volume 1 - Chapter 7: The activities of Brian Nelson 1987- 89, Pat Finucane Review, 12 December 2012.
  2. Sir Desmond de Silva, Volume 1 - Chapter 5: Action taken by the security forces to tackle loyalist terrorism, Pat Finucane Review, 12 December 2012.
  3. Barry McCaffrey, At least 29 killings blamed on actions of double agent;The secrets that died with Brian Nelson THE DEATH OF BRITISH ARMY AGENT 6137, Irish News, 14 April 2003.
  4. Martin Ingram and Greg Harkin, Stakeknife, O'Brien Press, 2004, p. 185.
  5. Martin Ingram and Greg Harkin, Stakeknife, O'Brien Press, 2004, p. 186.
  6. Martin Ingram and Greg Harkin, Stakeknife, O'Brien Press, 2004, p. 185.
  7. Martin Ingram and Greg Harkin, Stakeknife, O'Brien Press, 2004, p. 186.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Sir Desmond de Silva, Volume 1 - Chapter 6: The recruitment of Brian Nelson, Pat Finucane Review, 12 December 2012.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.7 Sir Desmond de Silva, Volume 1 - Chapter 4: Agent-handling, Pat Finucane Review, 12 December 2012.
  10. Martin Ingram and Greg Harkin, Stakeknife, O'Brien Press, 2004, p. 186.
  11. Martin Ingram and Greg Harkin, Stakeknife, O'Brien Press, 2004, p. 189.
  12. John Ware, Plot to kill Belfast lawyers revealed, The Guardian, 2 August 2002.
  13. Johnston Brown, Into The Dark: 30 Years in the RUC, Gill & Macmillan, p.177.
  14. Martin Ingram and Greg Harkin, Stakeknife, O'Brien Press, 2004, p. 187.