President Clinton leads 80th birthday tributes to John Hume

Former United States President Bill Clinton on the Derry Peace Bridge with John and Pat Hume, during a visit to Derry in 2014. Picture Margaret McLaughlin
Seamus McKinney

FORMER US President Bill Clinton has led tributes to John Hume as he celebrates his 80th birthday today.

Political leaders past and present last night spoke of the Nobel Laureate's lifelong commitment to finding a peaceful solution to Northern Ireland's Troubles.

Mr Clinton described the former SDLP leader as “a man of uncommon conviction, deep humanity and most importantly, infinite patience”.

He said: “Not many in your position would have stayed the course for peace in the face of such long odds but your belief that progress was possible gave hope to all parties – and ensured that peace stayed within reach, even during the most challenging moments.

“Your tireless efforts to secure a better future for Northern Ireland will always be an inspiration for me – as it is for so many people who can now raise families and go about their daily lives in peace because you cared to fight for it."

President Michael D Higgins said Mr Hume was the "moral architect" of an inclusive peace process which delivered the Good Friday Agreement and inspired many of the "best men and women of his generation".

"He stood resolutely for the transformational power of non-violence."

U2 frontman Bono sent this card to John Hume:


Bertie Ahern, who was taoiseach at the signing of the 1998 agreement, also said Mr Hume was "always an inspirational person".

"He is a statesman for the whole island of Ireland. While the Good Friday Agreement was his legacy, even before that, the connections he developed with Tip O'Neill (former US speaker) and the 'Four Horsemen' (four prominent Irish-American politicians) gave us a place where Irish politicians could go.

"It helped not just with the peace process but culturally and politically."

Former prime minister Tony Blair said Mr Hume's approach cleared the ground for the seeds of peace to be planted.

In a statement to the Irish News, he said: "In laying the foundations for peace he had both the visionary capability and the persuasive ability to see how a resolution could be reached, while bringing people together to achieve that goal."

Former SDLP leader Mark Durkan, meanwhile, said Mr Hume had the “appreciation and affection of people the length and breadth of Ireland”.

“People can write memoirs that put them at the centre of the peace process, at the centre of agreement and breakthrough, but it was John Hume who drew the map, wrote the plan and led the way,” he said.

Mr Hume’s family said yesterday that despite memory difficulties, he remains in good physical health.

The family intends celebrating his 80th birthday privately today.


1937 – John Hume is born in the Glen, Derry.

1958 – Graduates from St Patrick’s College, Maynooth with a degree in history and French.

1960 – Founding member of Derry Credit Union. Later serves as president of Irish League of Credit Unions.

1969 – Elected as Independent Nationalist MP to Stormont government.

1970 – Becomes founding member of SDLP.

1973/74 – Serves as Minister for Commerce in doomed Sunningdale power-sharing executive.

1979 – Becomes leader of SDLP.

1979 – Elected Member of European Parliament.

1988 – Commences Hume/Adams talks initiative which lead to IRA cessation in 1994.

1998 – Good Friday Agreement, based on John Hume’s multi-relationship model, is signed.

1998 – Named as Nobel Peace Laureate along with Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble.

2001 – Resigns as leader of SDLP.

2004 – Retires from politics on medical advice.

2010 – Proclaimed “Ireland’s greatest person” following RTE poll.


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