Cunningham, Patrick (1878–1960), politician and farmer, was born 4 June 1878 in Mountjoy East, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, son of Michael Cunningham, farmer, and his wife Catherine (née McConalogue), both of Co. Tyrone. He was educated locally, before becoming a highly successful farmer. His farm at Strathroy, Omagh, was said to be one of the most progressive agricultural businesses in Ireland and he also owned an extensive milk retail business. For many years, he was a leading exhibitor at agricultural shows throughout the country. From an early age, he served as a member of the County Agricultural Committee and the Tyrone Farming Society (of which he became vice-chairman) and throughout his life was involved with the Gaelic League and the GAA.
His first involvement in politics came in September 1917, when he was elected president of the newly formed Omagh branch of Sinn Féin, before being appointed treasurer in November 1917. In June 1920, he was one of three Sinn Féin candidates (and one unionist) elected by proportional representation for the Omagh division of Tyrone county council. At the first meeting of the newly elected council, Cunningham was elected to the county council's asylum and agricultural committees. He continued to serve on these committees until April 1924, when, along with all anti-unionist members of local government in the county, he refused to participate in elections in protest at the re-drawing of local government boundaries which produced a unionist-controlled council.
His withdrawal from representative politics came to an end in 1935, when he and Anthony Mulvey (qv) were selected as ‘compromise’ candidates for the double member constituency of Fermanagh-Tyrone in the general election of that year. Initially, the nationalist party had nominated the sitting MPs, Cahir Healy (qv) and Joseph Francis Stewart (qv), but Sinn Féin threatened to split the anti-unionist vote in the constituency by nominating their own candidates. A compromise was only reached the morning of nomination, whereby Cunningham and Mulvey went forward as abstentionist candidates. Cunningham was reluctant to go forward because he was never an abstentionist in principle, and was happy with his life as a farmer and had little interest in becoming an MP. Nevertheless, he was elected on 14 November 1935, polling 50,891 votes; Mulvey was also elected, with 50,603 votes, some 4,000 more than their unionist opponents.
Throughout the war-time parliament, Cunningham kept his promise to abstain from Westminster, but when selected for the next general election of 5 July 1945, made it clear that his position on abstention would be decided by a nationalist convention. Just as in 1935, he and Mulvey took both seats, and yet again, Cunningham topped the poll. On 11 August 1945 a convention for Fermanagh and Tyrone decided by 118 votes to 23 to instruct their MPs to attend Westminster, and from 22 August of that year, they began to do so. When, in 1947, it became clear that the constituency was to be redistributed into the new single-member constituencies of Fermanagh & South Tyrone and Mid-Ulster, Cunningham decided not to stand in the next general election. While a prominent and deeply respected figure within the local nationalist community, he was an outsider at Westminster, who owed his lengthy period as an MP to the sectarian peculiarities of Northern politics and his profile as a substantial farmer in Tyrone. On 10 January 1918 he married Isabella Jane O'Neill, daughter of James O'Neill, farmer, of Newtownstewart, Co. Tyrone; they had twelve surviving children, seven sons and five daughters, and lived at Mountjoy East and Strathroy, both near Omagh. After several months of illness, Cunningham died on 2 February 1960 at his home in Strathroy.