The Tyneside solicitor for Martin McGartland, the former IRA informer shot in the stomach in England on Thursday, has applied to the Home Secretary for the safe re-location of his client under a new identity. McGartland has told his solicitor, Nigel Dodds, that he believes the IRA were behind the attempt on his life at his home in Whitley Bay. Belfast-born McGartland was shot at least six times in the stomach in the attack and needed seven hours of emergency surgery to save his life.

McGartland, who is in his late twenties, is the author of the book "Fifty Dead Men Walking", in which he claimed to have worked as a British secret agent within the ranks of IRA between 1988 and 1991, before he was uncovered and had to escape an IRA death squad. Two years ago, McGartland claimed he was put in danger when his cover in the North East of England was blown because Northumbria Police took him to court for speeding.

Following the death of another IRA informer, Eamon Collins, earlier this year, he claimed that he might be next on an IRA hit-list. However, local reports suggested that McGartland was shot by criminal elements and not by paramilitaries and the police are keeping an open mind on the shooting.