Northern Ireland news

Mary McAleese leads new John Hume legacy scheme

Former President Mary McAleese and her husband, Martin, will be patrons of the foundation
Seamus McKinney

George Mitchell, Mary McAleese and the son of murdered civil rights leader Martin Luther King will be among patrons of the new John and Pat Hume Foundation.

The foundation, which will be launched next week, has been established to nurture the legacy of Mr Hume (83), who died in August, as well as his wife, confidant and closest supporter Pat.

It will develop practical ways of supporting “peaceful change-makers” and consider a physical or “capital” legacy to the Nobel laureate.

Although not decided yet, this could be similar to the centre established in Bellaghy in memory of poet Seamus Heaney.

The foundation was due to be launched with a major public event at Derry’s Guildhall featuring singer Phil Coulter, former President Mary McAleese and Derry Girls creator Lisa McGee.

However, due to coronavirus restrictions a public event was not possible and the website will instead go live at 11am next Friday with a virtual interview featuring foundation chairman and former Stormont minister Sean Farren, board member and former PUP leader Dawn Purvis and Mr Hume’s son, John junior.

That will be followed the week after with a lecture by US human rights champion Martin Luther King III.

The board of directors of the foundation also includes former SDLP leader Mark Durkan, Ulster Unionist assembly member Mike Nesbitt, Women’s Coalition co-founder Monica McWilliams and Sara Canning, partner of murdered journalist Lyra McKee.

Mr Hume’s son John and daughter Mo will also be joined on the board by Brid Rodgers, Kieran McLoughlin, Mary McIvor, Tom Arnold, Professor Paul Arthur, Mary Cosgrave and Hugh Logue.

Foundation secretary Tim Attwood said it was important that it “wasn’t just an SDLP organisation” but represented all aspects of Mr and Mrs Hume’s work - local, national and international.

“It will cover their work on partnership, respect and resilience and will reflect John's leadership in areas such as social justice,” he said.

Many of Mr and Mrs Hume’s key principles, including building all-Ireland health and economic systems, will be explored through the foundation.

It will also support “peaceful change-makers” through work with universities and the promotion of bursaries and fellowship.

“It will involve bringing people from conflict zones here in the way that John spent a semester at Harvard which gave him time to think and engage with academics.”

Mr Attwood said leading political and civic figures have already agreed to act as patrons, including Mr Mitchell, Ms Murad and former president Mary McAleese and her husband Martin.

Ms Murad, an Iraqi national and member of the Yazidi religion, was joint winner of the 2018 Nobel peace prize for her work in helping victims of sexual violence, particularly those who suffered as a weapon of war and conflict.

“There will be lectures by Ms Murad and as well as former US Security Council member Nancy Soderberg, Irish president Michael D Higgins and former presidents Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese and journalist Fergal Keane,” Mr Attwood said.

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