■ Just once did John Hume let his stoic mask slip in the face of his people’s suffering.
John Hume, 1937-2020
Tributes poured in yesterday for the late John Hume. From President Michael D Higgins to the Clintons, from Gerry Adams to British prime minister Boris Johnson, here is a brief glimpse at the esteem in which the SDLP leader was held.
John Hume, through his words, his astute diplomacy, and willingness to listen to what was often difficult to accept but was the view of the ‘other’, transformed and remodelled politics in Ireland, and the search for peace, with a personal bravery and leadership informed by a steadfast belief in the principles and values of genuine democracy.
John’s deep commitment to these values and his practical demonstration of tolerance and social justice, oftentimes in the face of strong opposition and tangible threats to his person and his family, asserted the fundamental principles of democracy. He and those others who helped usher in a discourse that enabled a new era of civil rights and responsive government that few would have thought possible, have placed generations in their debt, have been a source of hope.
Mar Uachtarán na hÉireann, as President of Ireland, may I say how deeply grateful we all should be that we had such a person as John Hume to create a light of hope in the most difficult of times.
■ President Michael D Higgins
Throughout his long life, he exhibited not just courage, but also fortitude, creativity and an utter conviction that democracy and human rights must define any modern society.
For over four decades, he was a passionate advocate for a generous, outwardlooking, and all-encompassing concept of nationalism and republicanism. For him, the purpose of politics was to bring people together, not split them apart.
During the darkest days of paramilitary terrorism and sectarian strife, he kept hope alive. And with patience, resilience, and unswerving commitment, he triumphed and delivered a victory for peace.
“While the 1998 Good Friday Agreement was the product of many people’s work, can anyone really claim that it would have happened John Hume?
He didn’t just talk about peace, he worked unstintingly for peace, at times in the face of the most virulent criticism and risk to his life. He knew that to be a peacemaker on this island meant being a risk taker.
John Hume’s life was one of towering achievement. His vision was realised and while illness took away his voice, his presence remains all around us on this island in the form of political stabilwithout ity and he has left us a powerful legacy of peace and reconciliation.
■ Taoiseach Micheál Martin
His chosen weapon: An unshakeable commitment to non-violence, persistence, kindness, and love. With his enduring sense of honour he kept marching on against all odds towards a brighter future for all the children of Northern Ireland. Through his faith in principled compromise, and his ability to see his adversaries as human beings, John helped forge the peace that has held to this day.
His legacy will live on in every generation of Northern Ireland’s young people who make John’s choice to live free of the hatred and horror of sectarian violence. And it will endure in the hearts of those of us who loved him and will be shaped by his example of the end of our days.
■ Bill and Hillary Clinton
Right from the outset of the Troubles, John was urging people to seek their objectives peacefully and was constantly critical of those who did not realise the importance of peace. I will remember a lot of things about John, things that we did together, positions that we took, not always in agreement with each other, there was disagreement as well.
He was a major contributor to politics in Northern Ireland and particularly to the process that gave us an agreement that we are still working our way through. That’s hugely important and that’s something that he will be remembered for in years to come.
When the (Nobel) ceremony was over and we retired to the hotel, we found that hotel was assuming that the one party would be in one room and the other party would be another room. We said no, we’re going to relax and celebrate the achievement together with all our companions that had come with each of the parties there. I think that was a clear signal to people about how we were going to proceed.
■ Former Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble, who was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with John Hume. John Hume was our Martin Luther King. He was the greatest Irishman ever and he achieved something that no one could ever achieve before him: He ended the Anglo-Irish conflict, the conflict that had gone on for 800 years, and he gave my generation the opportunity to achieve our political goals peacefully and democratically, and that is an enormous legacy.
■ SDLP leader Colum Eastwood. His place in Irish history is richly deserved. Despite the pressures on him, his family, and his beloved Derry, he displayed great moral, physical and political courage. He never — not for one moment — departed from a complete insistence on the non-violent approach to our problems in Northern Ireland
Hume’s consistency provided a compass through some terrible times. He was the first to look for solutions beyond Northern Ireland to and the US — a gift of vision acknowledged by the first leader of the SDLP, Gerry Fitt. He was a born teacher and we have learned so much from him.
■ SDLP co-founder Austin Currie John was a giant in Irish politics. He and I had many disagreements, and that’s a very, very healthy thing to do and to have, but then we were able to talk and to actively promote the primacy of politics, of dialogue, of inclusivity and so on, which then led to the Hume-Adams talks.
I have to say on this sad day we wouldn’t have the peace that we enjoy today if it wasn’t for John Hume.
I think he was generally a brave man. If you look at some of the old footage, the one that always strikes me is of Magilligan Strand. If you look at him being watercannoned and being in the middle of the fracas that occurred around some of those early civil rights marches.
I think what was significant was he was a Derry man, so he wasn’t in an ivory tower, he wasn’t in a little bubble. He was presented by
Father Alex Reid with the possibility that if we could shape an alternative, we could shape a new political dispensation. And being given that possibility, he then bent his will over a long time to create with me and other what we now have.
■ Former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams John Hume was a political titan; a visionary who refused to believe the future had to be the same as the past.
His contribution to peace in Northern Ireland was epic and he will rightly be remembered for it. He was insistent it was possible, tireless in pursuit of it, and endlessly creative in seeking ways of making it happen.
Beyond that, he was a remarkable combination of an open mind to the world and practical politics. In any place, in any party, anywhere, he would have stood tall. It was good fortune that he was born on the island of Ireland.
I was fortunate to work with John on the Good Friday Agreement but also to get to know him years beEurope fore. He influenced my politics in many ways, but his belief in working through differences to find compromise will stay with me forever. He will be greatly missed.
■ Tony Blair, who was British prime minister when the Good Friday Agreement was signed. Every so often we come across a person of vision, who lifts us up to see and think beyond the confines of our own, much narrower, perspectives.
John Hume was such a man of vision, whose dreams were challenging but always achievable — whether it was ‘people helping people’ in a credit union or ‘countries assisting countries’ in the European project — he lived out the principle of “Ni neart go cur le cheile” (there is no strength without working together).
■ Catholic archbishop Eamon Martin. John was a giant figure in Irish nationalism but also in the wider life of Northern Ireland.
Whilst he was recognised across the world, there can be no doubt, however, that his loss will be most keenly felt in his home city.
My thoughts and prayers are with John’s family and friends at this difficult time. We think especially of his wife Pat, his children and grandchildren. I hope they take some comfort from the peace he helped to create.
■ Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster John Hume was quite simply a political giant. He stood proudly in the tradition that was totally opposed to violence and committed to pursuing his objectives by exclusively peaceful and democratic means.
For decades he sought resolution of the Troubles in Northern Ireland through dialogue and agreement.
Without John Hume there would have been no Belfast or Good Friday Agreement.
With his passing, we have lost a great man who did so much to help bring an end to the Troubles and build a better future for all.
■ British prime minister Boris Johnson
SDLP leader John Hume in buoyant mood as he arrived for talks at Dunadry Hotel on May 21, 1998, with British prime minister Tony Blair and Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble ahead of the final push for a yes vote in the next day’s referendum.
John Hume with his wife Pat at home in Moville, Co Donegal, in May 2017. From ‘Ireland: Frame by Frame’ by Pádraig Ó Flannabhra.
John Hume in September 1969, then an Ulster MP, with his children, Aine, 7; Therese, 8; Aidan, 5; and baby John.
U2 frontman Bono with David Trimble and John Hume on stage during a concert at Belfast’s Waterfront to promote a yes vote in the peace referendum.
A man walks past the Bogside mural in Derry of John Hume, Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Teresa, and Nelson Mandela yesterday, as the death of the former SDLP leader was announced.
Tributes left in front of a mural in the Bogside of Derry yesterday.
Nobel Peace laureates John Hume and the Dalai Lama in October 2000.
John Hume with Nelson Mandela at the South African embassy in Dublin in April 2000.