‘Ire­land is now blessed by the peace John gifted to us all’

John Hume 1937-2020

Irish Independent - - Front Page - Ea­van Mur­ray IN DERRY

11 pages of trib­utes and anal­y­sis in­clud­ing: Ber­tie Ah­ern, Bill Clin­ton, Kathy Don­aghy and Miriam O’Callaghan

JOHN HUME per­son­i­fied hope, courage, and per­se­ver­ance. To the world, he was a po­lit­i­cal and in­tel­lec­tual colos­sus. Still, to his friends, he was an or­di­nary man who achieved ex­tra­or­di­nary things.

Re­flect­ing on Hume’s life, SDLP leader Colum East­wood said 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,” he said.

Be­ing John Hume was not easy. And be­ing from Derry and a Catholic was es­pe­cially hard in the 1970s.

Hume watched as 13 peace­ful marchers, his neigh­bours and friends, were shot dead by Bri­tish para­troop­ers in the Bog­side in Jan­uary 1972.

Af­ter Bloody Sun­day, few in the na­tion­al­ist com­mu­nity in North­ern Ire­land were in the mood for peace. For many, pick­ing up a gun would have been an easy thing to do. But he never wa­vered.

Re­flect­ing on what marked John Hume apart from Martin McGuin­ness and Gerry Adams, East­wood be­lieves it was his courage.

“He was much more coura­geous (than Adams and McGuin­ness).

“It’s far harder to stand up against the might of the RUC, the IRA, the UDA – peo­ple who would kill you in the morn­ing – with­out a gun in your hand.

“And the force of ar­gu­ment is your only weapon. That, for me, was the most in­spir­ing thing about John Hume.

“That and the many thou­sands of SDLP peo­ple who spoke up in tough times and places and said, ‘No, you’re wrong – vi­o­lence is not the way to do it’. The bot­tom line is they were proved right.

“The grave­yards are full of peo­ple who didn’t need to die. It was only when the IRA em­braced the think­ing of John Hume and the SDLP that things be­gan to change.

“He was al­ways com­fort­able in the White House or Down­ing Street, but he was most com­fort­able here in Derry amongst his peo­ple.

“He was the leader of con­sti­tu­tional na­tion­al­ism, and he was the leader of this city, and we still see him as that.”

Hume’s legacy is bound for­ever in his abil­ity to speak and con­nect with peo­ple – all kinds of peo­ple.

Jour­nal­ist and po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist Ea­monn McCann ex­plains this didn’t al­ways make him pop­u­lar. “You would hear peo­ple say ‘there he is talk­ing to

the Amer­i­cans and the bloody Brits again’. It was held against him in the early days,” McCann laughs.

“But John would have been con­tent that all that talk­ing was bet­ter than blood­shed. “He could talk to any­one. “What I re­mem­ber him most for is his steadi­ness of pur­pose. Fre­quently I dis­agreed with him.

“He was con­sis­tent almost to a fault.

“He had an in­ner cer­tainty that not every­body, in­clud­ing my­self, al­ways found com­fort­able.

“You could get into an ar­gu­ment with John, but you weren’t go­ing to move him.

“At the end of the day, he would take your ar­gu­ment on­board and re­peat his own.

“He was a frus­trat­ing fel­low in a way. I don’t want to be over-sentimenta­l, but I liked John a lot.

“Over the past 20 years, he and I got on very well – hav­ing not got on all that well at the out­set. I’m very sad,” he said.

As trib­utes from Tony Blair and Bill Clin­ton flooded the news, John Coo­ley, man­ager of Bad­gers Bar in Derry city, said sim­ply: “He was one of us. He loved Derry, he was al­ways fight­ing our cor­ner.

“John is re­spon­si­ble for bring­ing Sea­gate, thou­sands of jobs, to this city.

“He was a great friend of the owner here, Hugh McDaid, and used to come in all the time.

“He would have a wee Bai­leys or an ice-cream or a wee sweet and be chat­ting to ev­ery­one sit­ting about.

“Peo­ple loved him. Al­though he was a states­man, he was an or­di­nary man.”

Hugh McDaid, the owner of Bad­gers and the for­mer chair­man of Derry City Foot­ball Club, was a life­long friend of Hume.

“His death was in­evitable, but I’m very sad.

“It was an ab­so­lute plea­sure to have him as a friend. Not be­cause he was John Hume but be­cause he was an­other neigh­bour’s child.

“John would come down to me ev­ery day in the bar for years. We had the best of times. He en­joyed a wee Bai­leys, and he used to say to me ‘Guin­ness should be do­ing this in pints’.

“One thing peo­ple may not have known about him was that he played cricket, and he was good. But he en­joyed sport, in gen­eral. He took part in all kinds of sports.

“When John de­vel­oped de­men­tia, he would have ranted on a wee bit, but even then he was very sin­cere in what he was do­ing.

“He was aware of what he would be say­ing and do­ing and was pro­tec­tive of him­self – he wouldn’t have his pic­ture taken with peo­ple willy-nilly.

“There was al­ways good fun around him. I loved go­ing to matches in Dublin with him.

“We would ar­rive, and it was quite as­tound­ing the re­ac­tion peo­ple had to him.

“Peo­ple down south treated him like a god. He wasn’t used to that in Derry.

“We all loved him, but he was one of us, and we were used to see­ing him, I sup­pose.

“One time we had just ar­rived for a foot­ball match and a sergeant came over and said he was there to pro­tect us.

“I was laugh­ing, ‘no, no, we don’t need pro­tec­tion. We’re from Derry for heaven’s sake’.”

De­spite be­ing a No­bel Prize win­ner, McDaid re­marks that Hume “never cap­i­talised on his pop­u­lar­ity”.

“He was too hon­est a per­son to live off the back of some­thing that some­one was prais­ing him for. He was just a very plain per­son.

“I’ve lost a friend, but Derry city has lost a friend.”


Iconic im­age: John Hume is de­tained by a sol­dier dur­ing a civil rights protest in Derry in Au­gust 1971.

Home­place: John Hume in his na­tive Derry, where he en­joyed huge pop­u­lar­ity; right, cel­e­brat­ing with his beloved Derry City FC.

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