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Monday 4 December 2023 Dublin: 3°C
Dennis Hutchings

Family of Troubles victim call for removal of memorial to British soldier who died while facing trial

Dennis Hutchings died last year while on trial for the attempted murder of John Pat Cunningham.

THE FAMILY OF a man with learning difficulties who was shot dead in 1974 have called for a memorial to the former soldier who died while on trial for the killing to be removed from a military barracks.

The memorial to Dennis Hutchings, a former member of the Life Guards regiment, was unveiled recently at Palace Barracks in Holywood, Co Down.

Hutchings died last year aged 80 after contracting Covid-19 while on trial for the attempted murder of John Pat Cunningham.

He denied the offence.

Cunningham, 27, who had learning difficulties, was shot dead as he ran away from an Army patrol across a field near Benburb, Co Tyrone.

Cunningham’s family said they are “unable to find peace because of this provocation” as they called for the UK Government or the Army to remove the memorial.

jpc John Pat Cunningham was shot dead in Co Tyrone in 1974

However, the UK’s Ministry of Defence has said they did not fund the memorial which was erected and maintained at private expense.

A statement released through the Pat Finucane Centre said: “We the family of John Pat Cunningham are calling on the Secretary of State Shailesh Vara and the MoD to intervene and ensure the removal of the memorial stone to Dennis Hutchings from Palace Barracks.”

“The custodian of the garden has clarified that it is reserved for service personnel who were killed in the course of duty.”

“Dennis Hutchings died from natural causes.”

“Hutchings’ family should place the memorial stone as they see fit in Cornwall and they can be left to grieve.”

The statement continued: 

“We had no wish to revisit this traumatic event but have been left with no alternative because of the callousness of others.”

An Army spokesperson said: “The Palace Barracks Memorial Garden is not an officially recognised MOD memorial.

“As this is a private memorial garden we do not determine what is included and the memorials are erected and maintained entirely at private expense.”

The MoD also said it is not consulted over private memorials and was not approached about the memorial to Hutchings.

Hutchings served in the British Army for 26 years and was posted to Northern Ireland during the Troubles in the early 1970s.

His trial over the attempted murder of Cunningham began last year but was halted when he contracted Covid.

He died in Belfast.

His lawyer subsequently called on the Government to halt the historical prosecution of veterans following his client’s death while on trial.

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