American civil rights veteran Reverend Jesse Jackson presented two Inishowen teenagers with prizes in Derry’s Guildhall on Sunday in the first annual Henry Cunningham Human Rights Award.
The award was established this year in memory of Carndonagh teenager, Henry Cunningham, who was shot dead by loyalist paramilitaries in 1974.
The 16 year-old was working as a labourer on a building site in Belfast with his brothers and was travelling back to Carndonagh when UVF gunmen opened fire on their van from a motorway bridge close to Templepatrick. The gun used in the attack had previously been stolen from a UDR base and was also used in the murder of two catholic workmen.
It is thought the gunmen attacked the southern-registered van assuming it contained catholics when it fact the Cunningham’s were members of the Church of Ireland.
Both catholics and Protestats were travelling in the van when it was attacked.
The Cunningham family, together with the Pat Finucance Centre in Derry, set up the human rights award this year and invited Inishowen schoolchildren to write essays about what human rights mean to them. The competition was won by Buncrana schoolgirl, Mairead O’Doherty, from Crana College, who was presented with her prize, together with a cheque for 500 euro, which was funded by the Irish government.
She received her prize from Rev Jackson and was greeted with loud applause.
Stephanie McCandless from Carndonagh was highly commended for her entry and was also congratulated on stage by Rev Jackson.
Both girls were introduced onto the stage by Professor Christine Bell who said the standard of entries for the competition was extremely high and added that it was difficult to chose a winner.
Rev Jackson commended both schoolgirls for their competition entries and encouraged the large crowd in the Guildhall to applaud their efforts.
He also paid tribute to the Cunningham family for their campaign for justice for their brother.
The veteran politicians met with several members of the family in the mayor’s parlour before presenting the prizes to the two schoolgirls.