Henry Cunningham family abandon ‘futile’ inquest calls

The late Henry Cunningham.
The late Henry Cunningham.

The family of a Protestant teenager from Carndonagh murdered in a UVF ambush 45 years ago are to abandon their efforts to secure a new inquest into his death.

Henry Cunningham (16) was a passenger in a van bringing Protestant and Catholic workmen home from a Belfast building site on the evening of August 9, 1973.

As the van travelled along the M2, three gunmen opened fire on the vehicle from a bridge.

The teenager was killed instantly while another workman was shot in the face.

The Historical Enquiries Team (HET) subsequently found that one of the guns used in the attack was earlier stolen from an Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) base in Lurgan. The same gun was used the following year to kill two Catholic workmen in Glengormley.

The Cunningham family, which is this week preparing to commemorate the 45th anniversary of Henry’s death, says it has now decided to withdraw its application for a new inquest.

In a statement, Henry’s brothers, Robert and Herbert, said: “We have made this decision after spending the last 45 years of our lives pressing the Northern Ireland government and the Irish government for a decision to hold a fresh inquest into his death.

“It has now become apparent to us that our efforts in this regard are futile and that we are never going to get a new inquest and that our late brother, Henry Cunningham, will be denied justice under law.”

Meanwhile, a local human rights group claims the Cunninghams decision to withdraw its application for a new inquest is a result of a decision to block funding to reform the legacy inquest system.

A spokesperson for the Pat Finucane Centre, which has been providing advice and support to the Cunninghams, said: “The decision by the Cunningham family to withdraw their application is a direct consequence of the decision by Arlene Foster to block funding to reform the legacy inquest system.

“This decision was unlawful and a disgrace. It is clear that the DUP is afraid of the truth.

“Families, including the family of 16-years-old Henry Cunningham, deserve to know how and why their loved ones’ died.

“Their hesitation in bringing an application in the first place reflects their lack of faith in the coronial system caused by ongoing delay and obfuscation.”