Northern Ireland news

Tributes from across Ireland and beyond for 'giant of politics' John Hume

John Hume pictured in his native Derry 

JOHN Hume's former colleagues and political adversaries yesterday joined presidents and prime ministers in paying tribute to the one-time SDLP leader who has died aged 83.

Widely regarded as the chief architect of the peace process and Good Friday Agreement, the former MP, MEP and MLA led the party he'd helped found from 1979 to 2001.

A prominent politician for more than 30 years, he founded Derry's Credit Union and was an active in the civil rights movement before helping to form the SDLP in 1970.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner, who was awarded the accolade alongside David Trimble, stepped back from politics in 2004 due to ailing health.

He died in the early hours of yesterday morning at the Owen Mor nursing home in his native Derry, having suffered from dementia for more than a decade.

He is survived by his wife Pat and children Terese, Aine, Aidan, John and Mo.

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President Michael D Higgins said the former Foyle MP had "transformed and remodelled politics in Ireland".

"He and those others who helped usher in a discourse that enabled a new era of civil rights and responsive government that few would have thought possible, have placed generations in their debt, have been a source of hope," he said.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin described Mr Hume as a "great hero and a true peace maker".

"For over four decades, he was a passionate advocate for a generous, outward-looking and all-encompassing concept of nationalism and republicanism – for him the purpose of politics was to bring people together, not split them apart," he said.

Former US President Bill Clinton said he and his wife Hillary were "deeply saddened" by Mr Hume's passing.

John Hume and his wife Pat with former US President Bill Clinton during a visit to Derry in 2014. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

"With his enduring sense of honour, he kept marching on against all odds towards a brighter future for all the children of Northern Ireland," he said.

"Through his faith in principled compromise, and his ability to see his adversaries as human beings, John helped forge the peace that has held to this day."

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the north had "lost a great man".

Read more: Pressure of John Hume's search for peace laid bare at Greysteel funerals

He said Mr Hume's vision "paved the way for the stability, positivity and dynamism of the Northern Ireland of today".

Tony Blair, British prime minister at the time of the Good Friday Agreement described the former SDLP leader as "a visionary who refused to believe the future had to be the same as the past".

Ian Knox cartoon 4/8/20 

"His contribution to peace in Northern Ireland was epic and he will rightly be remembered for it," he said.

Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern, who co-signed the 1998 peace deal with Mr Blair, said Mr Hume always "saw the bigger picture".

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood described his predecessor as "20th century Ireland’s most significant and consequential political figure".

"It is no exaggeration to say that each and every one of us now lives in the Ireland Hume imagined – an island at peace and free to decide its own destiny," he said.

"The life of John Hume will forever be a blessing upon this island since Ireland is now blessed by the peace he gifted to us all. It is the greatest legacy a political leader can bestow upon his country."

Former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, with whom John Hume forged a relationship in the 1980s that would change the direction of Irish politics, expressed his “deep sense of personal loss”.

"John’s contribution to Irish politics cannot be underestimated – when others talked endlessly about peace John grasped the challenge and helped make peace happen," he said.

Lord David Trimble, Ulster Unionist leader at the time of the Good Friday Agreement, said from the outset Mr Hume urged people to stick to their objective peacefully.

"He was a major contributor to politics in Northern Ireland, particularly to the process that gave us an agreement that we are still working our way through," he said.

DUP leader and first minister Arlene Foster described the former SDLP leader as a "giant figure in Irish nationalism".

"He left his unique mark in the House of Commons, in Brussels and in Washington and even those of us who will have differed in our constitutional preference cannot fail to have admired and respected his drive and desire for a better future," she said.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said the former SDLP leader "leaves behind a legacy of power sharing and peace".

Alliance leader Naomi Long paid tribute to the former MEP's "hard work and sacrifice".

"His enormous contribution to the peace process, to the ending of violence and determination to deliver a society built on equality for everyone will be his lasting legacy. His was a life well lived," she said.

Ulster Unionist leader, Steve Aiken said Mr Hume made a "huge contribution to political life in Northern Ireland".

"Throughout the long dark decades of the Troubles, John Hume consistently offered constitutional nationalism, a peaceful alternative to the violent republicanism of the IRA, which he recognised was utterly futile," he said.

Former SDLP colleague and fellow civil rights activist Austin Currie described his former leader as "the greatest Irishman since Parnell".

Secretary of State Brandon Lewis said Mr Hume was "one of the most important figures in recent UK and Irish political history".

"He looked beyond the violence that was taking place to seek a pathway to peace," he said.

Bruce Morrison, the chair of Washington's Ad Hoc Committee to Protect the Good Friday Agreement, said Mr Hume was a "steadfast advocate of peaceful reform, rooted in reconciliation".

Archbishop Eamon Martin, archbishop of Armagh and primate of all Ireland, said Mr Hume was a "paragon of peace, a giant of a statesman whose legacy of unstinting service to the common good is internationally acclaimed".

Among others who paid tribute to the former SDLP leader were his successor Lady Margaret Ritchie of Downpatrick, former taoiseach and tanaiste Leo Varadkar, former prime minister John Major, Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, Irish Labour leader Alan Kelly, former UUP MEP Jim Nicholson, Bishop of Down and Connor Noel Treanor, the president of the Methodist Church in Ireland Rev Tom McKnight, Presbyterian Moderator Dr David Bruce, former secretary of state Lord Hain, former Alliance leader John Cushnahan, DUP MP Gregory Campbell and former Ulster Unionist leader Lord Empey.

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