see below for Statement from the Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheal Martin TD on Cunningham Award
Press Release (April 15 2010)
The brothers of murdered Donegal teenager Henry Cunningham have strongly welcomed the announcement by the Irish Government of an annual human rights award named in memory of 16 year Henry. The Henry Cunningham Human Rights Essay with an annual award of €500 will be available to any fourth year secondary student in the Inishowen peninsula with the schools shortlisting essays to be judged by Professor Christine Bell of the Transitional Justice Institute/ University of Ulster.
The presentation of the annual €500 busary will be made by Robert Cunningham, brother of the deceased. Henry was killed when gunmen opened fire on their minibus on the M2 Motorway near Belfast in 1973. It is thought that the UVF gunmen believed that the occupants of the Donegal registered bus were Catholic. Henry's family are Presbyterian.
Announcing the award Minister Martin TD said,
"I met with Henry’s brother Robert last year and he presented me with a copy of the report prepared by the HET. I was deeply moved by the pain which Robert Cunningham expressed when we met. Though it is almost 40 years since Henry was murdered, the pain that the family feel has not gone away. At that meeting we discussed how to commemorate Henry’s life."
Robert and Herbert Cunningham welcomed the news,
"For many years we feel that Henry was forgotten even here in Donegal. This award is a positive way of remembering Henry in Inishowen and ensuring that good comes out of something evil - the murder of a 16 year boy. In future young people at the five local secondary schools in Inishowen will be encouraged to take part in this annual award by writing an essay about human rights on the island of Ireland. We are remembering our brother in a positive way and hopefully giving something back to young people in the area. We can never bring Henry back but his name will forever be associated with the need to protect human rights and that’s a good thing. This present government have shown more concern than the government at the time and that is to be warmly welcomed."
Speaking earlier today Paul O Connor of the PFC said,
"We accompanied family members to a meeting with Minister Micheal Martin TD in July 2009. We presented him with the HET report into the case which divulged that one of the guns used had been ‘stolen’ from a UDR base earlier that year. Documents that we uncovered in London showed that the British Army had concluded that this ‘theft’ involved collusion with members of the UDR in the same base.
At the meeting with Minister Martin we talked about the idea of remembering Henry within the north Donegal community. It was thought that it would be a positive development if an annual prize could be awarded in his name within the context of a human rights essay for secondary students. After discussion with the five schools in the area it was agreed that this would be a fitting tribute to young Henry. The Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin have now confirmed to us that monies will be made available."
The support of the Irish Government is greatly appreciated by both the family and the local community in north Donegal.
Henry Cunningham was a 16 year old young man from Carndonagh in County Donegal who was murdered while travelling home to Donegal from work in Glengormley on 9 August 1973. The van in which he was travelling was fired at from a motorway bridge near Randalstown. Henry was shot and died almost instantly. No one was ever convicted of his murder.
The PSNI’s Historical Enquiries Team (HET) re-examined Henry’s murder and produced a report for the family. That report concluded that it was likely that the murder was carried out by the UVF in the mistaken belief that the occupants of the van were Catholics from the South. Henry’s family are Presbyterian. His brothers Robert and Herbert were travelling in the van on the day with their colleagues who were Catholics and Presbyterians.
I met with Henry’s brother Robert last year and he presented me with a copy of the report prepared by the HET. I was deeply moved by the pain which Robert Cunningham expressed when we met. Though it is almost 40 years since Henry was murdered, the pain that the family feel has not gone away. At that meeting we discussed how to commemorate Henry’s life.
I am impressed that the family have decided to commemorate Henry’s short life by providing a valuable opportunity for students of the same age that Henry was when he was murdered. I am pleased to announce the provision of funding for the establishment of the Henry Cunningham Human Rights Essay competition. Initially, the essay competition will be open to Transition Year students from the Inishowen peninsula, where Henry’s family come from.
None of the students who will write for this competition were born when Henry Cunningham’s young life was cut short during one of the darkest years of the Troubles. They may not know of the pain and suffering endured by many families across this island during the Troubles. It will remind them of how one local family suffered and continued to suffer because of a senseless murder.
This competition will also remind students of the importance of human rights. By dedicating it to the memory of Henry, a young Donegal man who was denied the most fundamental human right, it serves as a fitting tribute to a young life cut short tragically.
Once again, I would like to offer my deepest condolences to the family. Their loss can never be set right but it is important that they know that the people of Ireland share their grief and will work to make sure that no other family has to suffer a similar tragedy in the future.