John Hume

John Hume 'never lost faith in peace'

 John Hume's coffin is taken from St Eugene's Cathedral after Requiem Mass. Picture by Niall Carson, PA Wire
Digital Staff and Press Association

John Hume "never lost faith in peace", mourners at his funeral in Derry have heard. 

Requiem Mass for the former SDLP leader and civil rights leader was celebrated this morning at St Eugene's Cathedral in Derry.

The Nobel laureate's remains were taken to the cathedral last night from his home in Moville, Co Donegal.

Fr Paul Farren said Mr Hume "never lost faith in peace and he never lost faith in his ability to convince others that peace was the only way".

"If ever you want to see a man who gave his life for his country, and his health, that man is John Hume. The world knows it," he added.

Mr Hume's son John Hume Junior addressed the congregation and said that summing up his father's life in a few minutes "is not an easy task".

"For a man who supposedly had only one single transferable speech, dad did a lot of different things in his life.

"He also made us laugh, dream, think, and sometimes look at him and scratch our heads in amazement.

"He also kept the Irish chocolate industry in healthy profits for many years. Yorkies, Crunchies, Creme Eggs, Double Deckers, Wispas, you name it, he loved them all.

"We often found it odd how a man with the intelligence to win a Nobel Prize could seriously believe that Crunchies were less fattening because they are full of air."

Pat Hume (centre) arrives at St Eugene's Cathedral in Derry with two of her children for the funeral of her husband John Hume. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire

Mr Hume Junior added: "If dad were here today in the fullness of his health, witnessing the current tensions in the world, he wouldn't waste the opportunity to say a few words.

"He'd talk about our common humanity, the need to respect diversity and difference, to protect and deepen democracy, to value education, and to place non-violence at the absolute centre.

"He might also stress the right to a living wage and a roof over your head, to decent healthcare and education.

"Dad was a Derryman to his core and those deep roots of neighbourhood and community served to nourish him through the difficult years.

"From the beginning, the European Union was like a homecoming to him, bringing together diverse cultures in an interdependent relationship, allowing for unique identities while also holding a bigger picture of unified kinship."

"Central to dad's work was his deep appreciation of human interdependency," he added.

John Hume Junior speaks at the funeral of his father John Hume at St Eugene's Cathedral in Derry. Picture by Stephen Latimer/PA Wire

"We all need one another, we all have a role to play, and all our roles are of equal importance.

"In the last years of dad's life, his physical and mental health became more visibly vulnerable.

"And yet in those recent years, more than ever, we as a family witnessed the absolute importance of dad's core ethos, of building community based on respect and love.

"The kindness shown to him by the people of Derry and Donegal, who stopped to talk to him in the street every day, guided him to protect his independence, and received him with gentleness if he was agitated, was a profound gift to all of us.

"We are eternally grateful to all those that helped over the years."

He added: "Marrying Pat Hone, our mother, was without a doubt dad's greatest achievement and she enabled him to reach his full potential.

"Our mum, who loved, supported and guided him throughout his tireless work for peace, and later in his frailty, was his greatest blessing.

"He was there for all of us throughout his life. There were times when we felt that he was absent, but he wasn't, he was just with us from somewhere else.

"Along with mum, he taught us all our values and gave us all our moral compass. And for that we will be forever in their debt."

 John Hume's coffin is taken from St Eugene's Cathedral after Requiem Mass. Picture by Niall Carson, PA Wire

Taosieach Micheál Martin and President Michael D Higgins are in attendance and so too are First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill who are seated in the same pew, at a social distance, and wearing face coverings.

Ms Foster visited the Guildhall ahead of the funeral to sign the book of condolence for Mr Hume, a former leader of the SDLP who helped forge peace in Northern Ireland.

Tthe Republic's Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, Secretary of State Brandon Lewis and PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne are also among mourners, along with a number of Mr Hume's former SDLP colleagues, including party leader Colum Eastwood and deputy Nichola Mallon, former first minister Mark Durkan, former deputy leader and founder member Brid Rogers and former leader Alasdair McDonnell.

Mourners are wearing face coverings and are seated at a distance from one another in the pews, in accordannce with social distancing guidelines.

John Hume's eldest son, Aidan, was unable to travel to his father's funeral today due to Covid-19 restrictions. Aidan Hume has lived in Boston for many years.

 The funeral of SDLP and civil rights leader John Hume at St Eugene's Cathedral in Derry. Picture by Stephen Latimer/PA Wire

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

Mr Hume is survived by his wife, Pat, and children Terese, Aine, Aidan, John and Mo. He died on Monday August 3 at age 83.

Father Paul Farren told mourners that Mr Hume gave dignity and life to so many people.

He said: "John never kept a distance. He stopped. He showed compassion. He got involved.

"In a time in our world when often small-mindedness and self-focus seems to be the driver, John never put anybody or any specific group first.

"He put everybody first. He didn't focus on difference and division.

"He focused on unity and peace, and giving that dignity to every person.

"We should never underestimate how difficult it was for John to cross the road and do what was intensely unpopular for the greater good.

"It was compassion - a compassion that bubbled over in the cemetery in Greysteel that drove John on the final and often lonely and always difficult road to peace.

"Even in the darkest moments, when people would have been forgiven for having no hope, John made peace visible for others."

Fr Farren added: "His vision revealed what could be and with time and determination and single-mindedness and stubbornness he convinced others that peace could be a reality.

"He never lost faith in peace and he never lost faith in his ability to convince others that peace was the only way.

"If ever you want to see a man who gave his life for his country, and his health, that man is John Hume. The world knows it.

"He is the only person in the world to have received the Noble Peace Prize, the Gandhi Peace Prize and the Martin Luther King Peace Prize.

"Pope Benedict XVI made him a Knight Commander of the Papal Order of Saint Gregory the Great.

"In the midst of all of this, John was a proud Derry man first and foremost."

Mourners were told that Mr Hume's commitment to Derry was "second to none".

 Mourners line the road close to St Eugene's Cathedral following Requiem Mass for John Hume. Picture by Niall Carson, PA Wire

They were told that his aim was to bring life and prosperity to Derry and to lift people out of poverty.

"He did everything possible to make that a reality," Fr Farren added.

"He always said his proudest achievement was the establishment of the Credit Union.

"We give thanks to God for the gift of life itself that so many people have today simply because of John's vision of peace, commitment to peace and to making peace a reality.

"Because make no mistake about it - there are people alive today who would not be alive had it not been for John's vision and his work."

Derry musician Phil Coulter played The Town I Loved So Well on the piano at the end of Mass as Mr Hume's remains were taken from the church. It was a favourite song and since his death many friends and contemporaries have shared stories of Mr Hume singing the Derry anthem with gusto in various settings including the White House.

Mourners applauded as the coffin was lifted into the hearse and again as the hearse drove away from the cathedral.

Read more: Gerry Adams recounts his fondest memory of John Hume

Bishop of Derry, Donal McKeown, First Minister Arlene Foster and former SDLP MLA Tommy Gallagher outside St Eugene's Cathedral in Derry ahead of the funeral of John Hume. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire

A message from Pope Francis was read aloud before the liturgy began. In it, the pope said he was saddened to learn of the former SDLP leader's death and praised his efforts for peace in Northern Ireland.

"Mindful of the Christian faith that inspired John Hume’s untiring efforts to promote dialogue, reconciliation and peace among the people of Northern Ireland, His Holiness commends his noble soul to the loving mercy of Almighty God."

In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI made Mr Hume a Knight Commander of the Papal Order of St Gregory the Great.

Bishop Donal McKeown also shared a tribute from the Dalai Lama. 

"I am sorry to learn about the passing of John Hume," the Dalai Lama said. "I would like to offer my condolences to you and the members of the family.

"I was pleased to be able to meet John during one of my several visits to Northern Ireland. Indeed, his deep conviction in the power of dialogue and negotiations in resolving the problem in his homeland has been an example of non-violent resolution of issues.

"It was his leadership and his faith in the power of negotiations that enabled the 1998 Good Friday Agreement to be reached. His steady persistence set an example for all of us to follow.

"Although my fellow Nobel laureate is no longer with us, his message about peace and nonviolence in the resolution of conflict, no matter how protracted or difficult it may seem to be, will long survive him. He lived a truly meaningful life."

 Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill arrives for John Hume's Requiem Mass. Picture by Niall Carson, PA Wire

A message from U2 singer Bono said: "We were looking for a giant and found a man whose life made all our lives bigger.

"We were looking for some superpowers and found clarity of thought, kindness and persistence.

"We were looking for revolution and found it in parish halls with tea and biscuits and late-night meetings under fluorescence.

"We were looking for a negotiator who understood that no-one wins unless everyone wins and that peace is the only victory.

"We were looking for joy and heard it in the song of a man who loved his town so well and his missus even more.

"We were looking for a great leader and found a great servant.

"We found John Hume."

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 on Tuesday August 4. Picture by Niall Carson

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

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.

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 historic Good Friday accord which largely ended Northern Ireland's 30-year sectarian conflict.

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

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

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

 Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill and First Minister Arlene Foster attended the funeral of former SDLP leader John Hume. Picture by Niall Carson, PA Wire

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access



John Hume