Irish Republican News · March 14, 2015
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Fears of ‘legacy’ cover-ups for British Army killers


The family of a man with special needs who was shot dead by the British Army in 1974 have said they have no faith in a re-opened police investigation by the PSNI’s ‘Legacy Investigation Branch’.

John Pat Cunningham, who had a mental age of between six and 10, was shot three times as he ran from a patrol near Benburb in County Tyrone.

In a high-profile media event, the PSNI announced this week they they were launching a fresh investigation into the shooting and appealed for information.

Last year the family received an apology from the Ministry of Defence after the Historical Enquiries Team - which was set up to look at conflict-related cold cases - concluded that Mr Cunningham’s death was a tragedy that should not have happened.

However, Paul O’Connor of the Pat Finucane Centre said the Cunningham family believe the PSNI should not be attempting to investigate the murder at this time, and that the appeal was being issued by the PSNI for public relations purposes.

This week, a cross-party Westminster committee found that the PSNI’s Legacy Investigations Branch (LIB) does not comply with European human rights legislation because it is not independent from the police.

Earlier this year it was revealed that more than half of the staff employed by the LIB are former Special Branch or Crime Unit officers.

“The family fears that, if the PSNI opens a reinvestigation now, it will rule out a new, independent inquiry under the proposed Historical Investigations Unit proposed in the Stormont House Agreement.

“In the aftermath of the murder, the two soldiers who shot John Pat in the back, as he ran away from them, were questioned for five minutes each only.

“They refused to give any explanation for their actions to the RUC and were not pressed to do so.

“The Cunningham family were not informed this appeal was being made today. They first heard about it through the media.

“Last week they were asked through their legal representative to provide a photograph but refused to do so, telling the PSNI that they did not wish to be involved in this appeal.

“The family have never met with the PSNI and asked the PFC to attend a recent meeting to inform them that they had no confidence in this investigation.”

Deputy director of the Committee on the Administration of Justice Daniel Holder said the PSNI needs to urgently examine the operation of the LIB.

“The PSNI must now urgently review the basis for its position that it is sufficiently independent to itself investigate cases where the past actions of the state, including the RUC, are the under scrutiny.”


Meanwhile, the Dublin government has ruled out holding an inquiry into the 1976 murder of a County Louth forestry worker shot dead by a gang which included locally-recruited British soldiers.

In 2009, 26-County Garda police informed the family that they had closed the file on Mr Ludlow’s murder.

Mr Ludlow’s nephew Jimmy Sharkey had sought a new investigation to focus on reports that in 1979 investigators were told by their RUC counterparts the identities of the four-man loyalist/British Army gang involved, but the suspects were never interviewed by gardai.

In a letter to Mr Sharkey’s lawyer, the 26 County justice minister, Frances Fitzgerald argued that information supplied to her provided nothing “new or substantial....which would in the public interest warrant an inquiry”.

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