Northern Ireland news

Hume-Adams talks laid the foundations of the peace process

Gerry Adams and John Hume's dialogue began in the late 1980s

THE BACKGROUND against which the talks between SDLP leader John Hume and Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams first took place in the mid-to-late 1980s was violent and bleak. The conflict had been raging for more than a decade and a half, with the prospects of a political solution appearing as unlikely as military victory for either the British or the IRA.

It was a coming together of nationalism and republicanism's two main strategists at a time when the latter was embarking on a political course.

Discussions between the two leaders were by accommodated by Clonard-based Redemptorist priest, the late Fr Alec Reid.

Hume sought to persuade the IRA to give up armed struggle and work for a united Ireland through its political wing, arguing that the British government was increasingly adopting a neutral position on the north's constitutional status.

Together the pair aimed to build on the goodwill that would emerge across Ireland and its diaspora if there was an end to the IRA's violent campaign.

Ian Knox cartoon 4/8/20 

When the talks became public in 1993 John Hume faced criticism from within his own party from those who felt he was presenting Sinn Féin with a political advantage. There was also criticism from elements of the southern media, the Sunday Independent in particular castigating the SDLP leader for engaging with the republican movement while IRA violence persisted.

With the benefit of hindsight, the Hume-Adams talks are widely acknowledged as laying the foundations of the peace process, creating the basis for the IRA's 1994 ceasefire, the Good Friday Agreement and Stormont power-sharing.

Read more: Gerry Adams shares his favourite memory of John Hume

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