Leading article

Full sized Derry university would honour John Hume's memory

It is essential that a permanent memorial should be created to mark the achievements of John Hume, who perhaps more than any other person helped to create a new era of peace and progress in Ireland.

Mr Hume died just over a month ago at the age of 83, and, as we reported last week, several options which would recognise his legacy are already being actively discussed.

The former SDLP leader is widely regarded as the main architect of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement which helped to transform our society, although the central involvement of his fellow Nobel laureate David Trimble of the Ulster Unionist Party as well as Gerry Adams of Sinn Féin and Senator George Mitchell among others also needs to be acknowledged.

While Mr Hume's overall contribution caused him to be voted by RTE viewers as Ireland's greatest individual, some form of lasting recognition in his native city would also be fully merited.

It should be noted that Mr Hume's first entry into public life was as chair of the University for Derry Committee in 1965, which had strong cross community support in the city and on both sides of the border, but saw its proposal turned down by the former unionist government.

The major academic investment, with all its educational, economic and symbolic benefits, was instead allocated to the much smaller town of Coleraine, some 30 miles away and, unlike Derry, firmly within the unionist tradition.

Nationalists of all descriptions had huge justification for their belief that it was an injustice of historic proportions which paved the way for the civil rights movement, in which Mr Hume played another pioneering role, and all that followed.

There is still an overwhelming case for a full sized university for Derry and its Donegal hinterland, with appropriate financial backing from both the Belfast and Dublin administrations.

Plans for a significant expansion of the existing Magee campus were included in the New Decade New Approach document last January but remain uncertain in many respects.

Mr Hume might not have minded which title may ultimately be applied to the new institution but it is beyond doubt that, 55 years after he launched his initial campaign, he would have fervently hoped that his dream of a proper university in Derry could be realised.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Leading article