Clinton: ‘I admired and liked him. I loved being with him’
:: Former US president was in awe of Hume’s devotion to peace
BILL CLINTON has paid a passionate tribute to John Hume. The former US President lauded him for not only being a remarkable statesman and human being, but a man whose enduring legacy of the Northern Ireland peace process has helped heal political rifts across the globe.
Mr Clinton described Mr Hume as “a remarkable man” whose absence from the world stage in recent years after he was diagnosed with dementia has not gone unnoticed.
“He was a remarkable man who could have been very valuable to the world at full steam over the last two or three years, when all over the world people were celebrating divisive characters. People who treated their political opponents as less than human and had no respect for anybody else and seemed to be rewarded for it in certain circles,” he said.
“John was the very opposite of that.
“He was a determined advocate for peace in Northern Ireland but he would deal with anyone who was duly elected and try to win them over,” said Mr Clinton on RTÉ Radio One’s ‘Drivetime’.
“He became a friend. You couldn’t help but be friendly with him. It was easy because I shared his goals, we wanted to get to a peace agreement, but I also appreciated the fact that he had fought too long and hard and still managed to be a real person with a real life.
“I just admired him and I liked him and he was good company. I loved being with him.”
Along with crediting the former SDLP leader and Nobel Laureate for “giving the children of Northern Ireland a peaceful future”, Mr Clinton described Mr Hume as someone whose counsel he could rely on when the US first got involved in the Northern Ireland peace process.
“Every time I saw him I felt this great tide of admiration and affection and enjoyment of his company, but it also inspired me to just keep going,” he said of the negotiations.
“I thought, ‘We need to do this’. This is the face that the Irish present to the world. I always thought the North would be better off getting along than continuing to fight, and I still believe that.”
Mr Clinton also said that it was Mr Hume who encouraged him to take ‘a leap of faith’ when the US controversially issued former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams with a visa to visit the US.
“He was always above the fray in a way but he sure knew when to get involved. I took all that heat for giving Gerry Adams a visa, you remember, but he thought it was time,” he said.
“He (Mr Hume) said, ‘I think it’s worth the risk’. He said it may not work out but I think you ought to do it.
“Now, that had a real impact on me because at the time the then-British government was going crazy, my own State Department was against it and I thought, ‘Here’s John Hume who has stood up for non-violence throughout the entire length of the Troubles, saying it’s time to take a leap of faith’.”
The former US President said the model used during the peace process had been a successful template used by the US in brokering peace in other troubled spots around the world.
“It was basically a roadmap that could be adapted virtually everywhere,” he said.
“I thought this is what we ought to try to do, some version of this in all of these other troubled places around the world, and I still believe that.”
Affection: Bill Clinton paid a warm tribute to John Hume