John Hume

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

John Hume broke down in tears at the funerals of eight people murdered by loyalists at the Rising Sun bar in Greysteel in 1993
Seamus McKinney

ONE of the worst atrocities of the Troubles laid bare the huge pressure under which John Hume worked for a political solution.

On the night before Halloween 1993, the UDA killed eight innocent people in the Rising Sun bar in Greysteel in what became known as the “Trick or Treat” murders.

That was the loyalist killers’ response to the Provisional IRA’s bombing of Frizzell’s fish shop on Belfast's Shankill Road in which 10 people, including one of the IRA bombers, were killed.

At the time, Hume was being heavily criticised for talks with Sinn Féin aimed at achieving an IRA ceasefire and eventually a new political way forward.

Some within his own SDLP felt he should not be engaging with Sinn Féin before a ceasefire. He was also viciously criticised in some sections of the Dublin media.

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The Shankill and Greysteel massacres seemed to suggest that his efforts would be futile.

Against that backdrop Hume attended the Greysteel funerals.

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As he walked behind one cortege, the relative of a victim spoke to him. Then in the full glare of the world’s media, he broke down and sobbed as he turned his face into the embrace of his wife, Pat.

The former SDLP leader later revealed the conversation that sparked his tears.

“She told me that her family prayed for me around the coffin of her loved one the night before and they prayed that I would be successful in my work to get the violence ended so that no other family would suffer what they had suffered,” he said.

The woman pleaded with Hume not to give up. He later said that encounter encouraged him “enormously” to keep to his task.

Less than a year later, on August 31 1994, the IRA declared its first ceasefire.

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John Hume