Northern Ireland news

Lifetime achievement award bestowed upon Pat Hume - a 'perpetual tonic' during Troubles

Former SDLP leader Mark Durkan presented the Irish Red Cross Lifetime Achievement Award to Pat Hume on Saturday evening. Also pictured is Pat Carey, Chairman of the Irish Red Cross.
Seanín Graham

FORMER SDLP leader John Hume's wife Pat has been lauded as a "source of heart and hope" during the Troubles after being honoured with a Lifetime Achievement award from the Irish Red Cross.

The charity presented the prestigious accolade to the 80-year-old Derry woman on Saturday evening at a ceremony in Dublin.

In a tribute to her work from the Civil Rights movement up to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, former SDLP leader Mark Durkan described Mrs Hume as a "perpetual tonic" in "the gravest of times".

"No matter what predicament people were in, be it through violence or social deprivation, Pat had a instinct and always found a way to lift you. She has a true humanitarian ethic," Mr Durkan said.

"She has given a lifetime of service and example to us all not just through the steadfast support she has shown to John during many difficult years but she has been a source of heart and hope when the hurt was at its worst."

Mrs Hume, who gave up her teaching career to work in her husband's constituency office, met many of those involved in backroom negotiations that led to the peace process - when her home became a 'thoroughfare' for secret talks among the political elite, diplomats and journalists.

The mother-of-five's house was firebombed and vandalised during this period, when she was the "eyes and ears" of her husband.

Receiving the Red Cross honour, Mrs Hume told a packed audience she was "overwhelmed and humbled".

"My initial response was to be somewhat shocked. I knew immediately there are many others who more clearly deserve this honour," she said.

"But with reflection I have gradually come to recognise I am here to represent many people - people who have struggled to sustain fundamental human values amidst the brutal tragedy of social conflict, and also, of those who struggle with the smaller daily challenges of living alongside longterm illness."

She also paid tribute to her husband's "core principles" that "became his anchor".

"John was often criticised for his repetition of simple truths. Among his most well used phrases, you might remember 'spill our sweat and not our blood' and 'you can't eat a flag'," she said.

"If he were here he would be expressing heartfelt gratitude to Red Cross and Red Crescent for your steadfast maintenance of core, life sustaining values."

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