Hume’s message was deceptively simple: nothing would be achieved by violence
:: Adams pays tribute to ‘a giant of Irish politics’
DAVID TRIMBLE, who was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with John Hume, has said the former SDLP leader’s “greatest gift to Northern Irish politics” was the Good
Friday Agreement. They shared the honour in 1998 in recognition of their efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Northern Ireland conflict.
Mr Trimble, a former Northern Ireland first minister, said Mr Hume has left a fitting legacy in his relentless advocacy for peace. “He was a politician who devoted his life to dealing with the situations that we have here,” Mr Trimble said.
“One of the important things in that process was that from the very outset of the Troubles, John was opposed by those who wanted to achieve their means through violence and in that sense he was firmly attached to non-violence and to pursuing one’s objectives by normal political means.
“And that was right from the outset, and those principles are the principles of the Belfast Agreement.
“That is his greatest gift to Northern Irish politics.”
Mr Trimble, who was leader of the Ulster Unionist Party from 1995 to 2005, said the post-Good Friday Agreement era is a fitting testament to the political titan that was Mr Hume.
“His legacy is there in terms of what has been achieved since 1998,” he said.
“Up until then there had been lots of initiatives and attempts to deal with our problems, all of which failed to a greater or lesser extent, and the one thing that did succeed was the agreement of 1998.
“That agreement is still in effect and it is the bedrock of the political processes we now deal with.
“That doesn’t mean that everything in the garden is rosy. There are difficulties, there are ups and downs and that is part of political life, but that is his primary achievement and it’s something
shared by all of those who were part of that process.”
Referring to the Nobel Peace Prize, Mr Trimble told how they celebrated together after accepting the accolade.
“When we came back to the hotel after the ceremony we found that the hotel had assumed rightly that we would want to relax and to celebrate the occasion… but they thought that the SDLP would want to do it in one room and that we’d want to do it in another room,” Mr Trimble said.
“But we said, ‘No, we’re going to relax together’ – and I thought it was a very clear indication about how we were going to proceed when it came to the implementation of the agreement.”
Meanwhile, former Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams described Mr Hume as a “giant of Irish politics”. He conceded that the pair had “many disagreements”, but said they had been able to talk to “promote the primacy of politics”.
The duo had been involved in secret talks during some of the darkest days of the Troubles, an effort that has been credited with bringing about the IRA ceasefire.
Mr Adams said that had it not been for Mr Hume, there would not be the peace there is today. And he described the peace process as Mr Hume’s “huge achievement”.
“He was singularly against the IRA,” Mr Adams said. “But he was a Derry man so he knew that republicans who were involved in armed struggle were serious, so the way to get at that wasn’t to have the stand-off that we had… when John bent his will, along with me and with others, to find an alternative way forward, that was what worked.”
Mr Adams said they met secretly for over a decade. “At the end of it all, it worked and it worked not least because of John Hume, and many others.”
Mr Adams dismissed the “lazy narrative” that Mr Hume sacrificed the SDLP for the peace process. Sinn Féin went on to overtake the SDLP as the largest party representing nationalism in the 2000s.
“I think there is a very lazy narrative that John Hume sacrificed the SDLP, and that Sinn Féin were crafty and sneaky. That is not the case,” he said.
“The SDLP without John Hume just wasn’t fit for purpose for the challenges that came up afterwards and Sinn Féin was, and that’s as simple and straightforward as that.”