■ We all live in the Ire­land John Hume imag­ined, says SDLP leader Colum East­wood.

The life and great legacy of John Hume will for­ever be a bless­ing upon this is­land since Ire­land is now blessed by the peace he gifted to us all, writes Colum East­wood

Irish Examiner - - Front Page - ■ Colum East­wood is the leader of the So­cial Demo­cratic and Labour Party

The death of John Hume rep­re­sents the loss of 20th cen­tury Ire­land’s most sig­nif­i­cant and con­se­quen­tial po­lit­i­cal fig­ure. It is no ex­ag­ger­a­tion to say that each and ev­ery one of us now lives in the Ire­land Hume imag­ined — an is­land at peace and free to de­cide its own des­tiny.

This is an his­toric mo­ment on this is­land but most of all it is a mo­ment of deep, deep sad­ness. In the days ahead, Ire­land will be united in mourn­ing his loss. How­ever amidst that na­tional mourn­ing, it is equally true that the mark­ing of John’s death also opens up a space to re­flect on, and cel­e­brate, the mag­ni­tude of his life.

As part of that re­flec­tion of John’s work, never has the beat­i­tude rung truer — blessed be the peace­mak­ers. The life of John Hume will for­ever be a bless­ing upon this is­land since Ire­land is now blessed by the peace he gifted to us all. It is the great­est legacy a po­lit­i­cal leader can be­stow upon his coun­try.

Hume will al­ways find a home amongst the pan­theon of great Ir­ish lead­ers and it is only right and nat­u­ral that he will now be spo­ken of in the very same breath as O’Con­nell and Par­nell. It is im­por­tant that John’s en­deav­ours are fully ap­pre­ci­ated in terms of their sheer scale - his im­pact and legacy ex­tends well be­yond one life­time and well be­yond the con­fines of North­ern Ire­land. His life’s work brought to an end the seem­ingly in­tractable his­tor­i­cal arc of bit­ter con­flict be­tween the neigh­bour­ing is­lands of Bri­tain and Ire­land.

Af­ter some 800 years which in­flicted so much hurt and harm on all our peo­ples, it is John Hume who must now be re­mem­bered as the great healer of that his­tory. For all of th­ese rea­sons and more, John Hume truly was Ire­land’s great­est.

Whilst John Hume lived most of his adult life at the cen­tre of mod­ern Ir­ish his­tory and its pol­i­tics, it is im­por­tant that we re­mem­ber that for John’s fam­ily, he was the very cen­tre of their lives and of their love. The Ir­ish na­tion has lost a gi­ant of its his­tory but his fam­ily have lost a hus­band, a fa­ther and a grand­fa­ther. The thoughts, prayers and love of all the SDLP fam­ily are to­day with the en­tire Hume fam­ily – with his chil­dren Terese, Aine, Ai­dan, John and Mo, his broth­ers and sis­ters and all his grand­chil­dren.

Most espe­cially our thoughts are with his lov­ing wife Pat who cared for and car­ried along­side John the very same bur­dens over many dark and dif­fi­cult years. In the com­ing days, weeks and months I know that peo­ple will be ea­ger to en­case the Hume fam­ily in the very same warmth, gen­tle­ness and in­fec­tious hu­man­ity which Pat has shared with ev­ery­one she has ever met.

It is espe­cially poignant that John’s death has oc­curred as we con­cluded cel­e­bra­tions of the 50th an­niver­sary of the Civil Rights Move­ment, a time which first awak­ened his po­lit­i­cal jour­ney. Wit­ness­ing the en­flamed streets of the 1960s and a com­mu­nity de­ter­mined to rise up and put an end to the sys­tem­atic dis­crim­i­na­tion of the state, John choose to build a pol­i­tics and a po­lit­i­cal party which was true to its time and true to the as­pi­ra­tions and the needs of our peo­ple.

In set­ting off on that po­lit­i­cal path, John em­bod­ied and thus gave birth to a new po­lit­i­cal creed on this is­land, trans­form­ing the con­flict­ing tra­di­tions which had rigidly de­fined our past. That new creed imag­ined a bet­ter and a shared fu­ture be­yond the rub­ble of our his­tory. It taught us that it is far bet­ter to live for Ire­land than to die for Ire­land, it chal­lenged us to pur­sue the path of pol­i­tics rather than the re­ac­tionary in­stinct of vi­o­lence, it dared us al­ways to choose prin­ci­ple ahead of easy pop­ulism and it told us that hu­man dif­fer­ence doesn’t have to mean divi­sion.

The Good Fri­day Agree­ment, em­braced and en­dorsed by the Ir­ish peo­ple in 1998, is the in­sti­tu­tional em­bod­i­ment of that creed and its vi­sion. John was not sim­ply the Agree­ment’s ar­chi­tect or its builder, he was very much both. He will for­ever re­main its en­dur­ing in­spi­ra­tion.

Through the power of John’s truly Euro­pean imag­i­na­tion, through the depth of his lan­guage, he proved that so­lu­tions and part­ner­ship were pos­si­ble and that even the great­est ob­sta­cles could be over­come. The three strands of re­la­tion­ships, amongst and be­tween the is­lands of Bri­tain and Ire­land, re­mains a tem­plate of gen­uine ge­nius and, if utilised, its struc­tures and orig­i­nal ethos still hold the po­ten­tial to guide us through and be­yond the tur­bu­lence of our po­lit­i­cal present.

As a re­sult of his ef­forts, Hume achieved the rarest of things in a po­lit­i­cal ca­reer – he be­came a liv­ing states­man. It is telling that John Hume re­mains the only per­son to have re­ceived the Gandhi Peace Prize, the Martin Luther King Award and of course the

No­bel Peace Prize. In truth though and true to his char­ac­ter, the great­est re­ward for John was not per­sonal recog­ni­tion – it was in­stead found in the end to the vi­o­lence and death which had taken own­er­ship of our streets for far too long.

As part of our re­fec­tion, a spe­cial men­tion is ap­pro­pri­ate for the city that was al­ways so spe­cial to John Hume. To­day, Derry is a city shrouded in grief. Derry was beloved by John and in re­turn he was beloved by the peo­ple of this city. Whether in Wash­ing­ton, Brus­sels, Lon­don or Dublin, John’s first thought was al­ways for the peo­ple of his home­town. His early in­volve­ment in the Credit Union Move­ment and later his suc­cess in bring­ing thou­sands of jobs was tes­ta­ment to the fact that fore­front in Hume’s mind was al­ways the cause of so­cial jus­tice and fight­ing poverty. John brought hope back into this city where it was too of­ten in short sup­ply. It is some­thing our city will never for­get.

John Hume once summed up his po­lit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy in say­ing, ‘I never thought in terms of be­ing a leader. I thought very sim­ply in terms of help­ing peo­ple.’ The sim­plic­ity of that state­ment re­mains a pow­er­ful in­sight into the pa­tri­otic de­vo­tion that came to de­fine the man. Hav­ing spent his life in the ser­vice of oth­ers, no-one is more de­serv­ing of the eter­nal rest which now awaits him.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

“I never thought in terms of be­ing a leader. I thought very sim­ply in terms of help­ing peo­ple

Pic­ture:Univer­sal His­tory Ar­chive/Univer­sal Im­ages Group via Getty Im­ages

John Hume: It is espe­cially poignant that his death oc­curred as we con­cluded cel­e­bra­tions of the 50th an­niver­sary of the Civil Rights Move­ment.

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