By Alan Healy
A vigil was held in Derry at the weekend in opposition to a protest in London over the prosecution of a British soldier in relation to a fatal shooting of a vulnerable adult in 1974.
The vigil at Free Derry Corner was one of five organised by the family and friends of John Pat Cunningham, who was shot and killed by British soldiers in fields near his home at Benburb, County Armagh, on Saturday, June 15, 1974.
The 27-year-old had a learning disability and had a fear of men in uniforms.
He was unarmed and was shot in the back as he ran away from an Army patrol.
In April 2015, Dennis Hutchings was charged with the attempted murder of Mr Cunningham.
In June of this year, it emerged that the 76-year-old former soldier will stand trial over Mr Cunningham’s death.
On Saturday, the group known as the Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans organised a protest in London entitled ‘I am Dennis Hutchings’, which took place at the Horse Guard Parade London, where the group asked for ‘boots on the ground’ to show Parliament their opposition to the prosecution.
However, a simultaneous vigil took place at the same location in London entitled ‘I am John Pat Cunningham’, where family and friends of the deceased were joined by members of the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC).
Similar vigils were also held in Derry, Strabane, Belfast and Armagh.
The Derry Vigil at Free Derry Corner was joined by those whose loved ones were shot by the British Army, including the families of Annette McGavigan, Gary English and Stephen McConomy.
A PFC spokesperson thanked all those who had taken part in the vigils, adding that there had been a ‘great response’
“We would also like to thank to our friends and colleagues at Relatives for Justice and to all other supporters for helping make these events happen,”
“The vigils were dignified and it was humbling to be involved.”
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