Northern Ireland news

John Hume's funeral to be held in Derry

John Hume's coffin being brought into St Eugene's Cathedral in Derry
David Young and Rebecca Black, PA

Former SDLP leader John Hume will be laid to rest today after a funeral in his native city.

The remains of the Nobel Peace Prize winner were carried into St Eugene's Cathedral in Derry last night ahead of this morning's service.

The Derry politician feted around the world as a peacemaker died on Monday at the age of 83 after a long battle with dementia.

In ordinary circumstances, Mr Hume's funeral would have been expected to draw huge crowds, but numbers will be limited due to coronavirus restrictions.

There were emotional scenes outside the cathedral yesterday evening as Mr Hume's widow Pat was tightly embraced by family members as she watched her husband's coffin being carried inside.

A socially-distanced guard of honour made up of SDLP activists watched on as the procession made its way to the doors of the cathedral.

They held candles in memory of the man hailed for his role forging the Good Friday peace accord.

The gesture was replicated in many homes across the island, as people placed candles in their windows in line with a request from Mr Hume's family.

 Members of the SDLP form a guard of honour as the coffin of John Hume is taken into St Eugene's Cathedral in Derry tonight. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire

President Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach Micheál Martin, British prime minister Boris Johnson and Secretary of State Brandon Lewis all lit flames for the SDLP founding member. 

Mr Hume was a key architect of the Good Friday Agreement and was awarded the Nobel prize for the pivotal role he played in ending the north's sectarian conflict.

The funeral service will be broadcast this morning by the BBC and RTÉ.

Mr Hume, a former MP, Stormont assembly member and MEP, led the party he helped found for 22 years.

John Hume's widow Pat with family members and other mourners as the former SDLP leader's body is brought to St Eugene's Cathedral in Derry

He was a prominent figure in the civil rights campaigns of the late 1960s and also played a leading role in the formation of the credit union movement.

Throughout his political career, he remained steadfast in his commitment to non-violence.

His participation in secret talks with then Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams in the late 1980s and early 1990s was a key catalyst for the nascent peace process.

The SDLP leader faced intense criticism, including some from within his own party, when his dialogue with Mr Adams became public in 1993.

Sister Mary at the opening of books of condolence for John Hume in Derry. Picture by Hugh Russell

Despite threats to his life, he persisted with his efforts to engage with the republican movement and to convince the IRA to end its campaign of violence.

The highlight of Mr Hume's career came in 1998 with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

Along with UUP leader David Trimble, now Lord Trimble, Mr Hume was awarded the Nobel peace prize for his contribution to stopping the bloodshed.

John Hume's funeral will take place at St Eugene's Cathedral in Derry. Picture by Pacemaker

In 2010, Mr Hume was named "Ireland's Greatest" in a poll by Ireland's national broadcaster RTÉ.

His death came just six months after that of fellow Good Friday architect and long-time SDLP deputy leader Seamus Mallon.

A number of vehicles were hijacked in Derry yesterday afternoon, with SDLP leader Colum Eastwood accusing those responsible of violating the grief of the city.

Fr Peter Burns, Rector of Clonard Monastery in west Belfast, lights a candle in parlour 4 where talks between former SDLP leader John Hume and Sinn Féin's Gerry Adams took place. Picture by Hugh Russell

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