Former Irish politician John Hume, one of the driving forces behind the Northern Ireland peace process, has died. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998 with former Prime Minister Trimble for their longstanding commitment to a peaceful solution to the violence between pro-British Protestants and Republican Catholics in Northern Ireland. John Hume was 83 years old.
The moderate nationalist Catholic politician was born in Londonderry in 1938, where he lived for The Troubles (1968-1998) was fought hard. He was one of the founders of the Social Democratic Workers’ Party (SDLP), which he led for 20 years. His party is deeply moved by the death of the former leader, after a short illness.
Hume has rarely been seen in recent years. In 2015, his wife told in an interview with the Irish public service broadcaster RTÉ that her husband had been struggling with dementia for years. He already had “serious memory problems,” she said at the time.
Praised left and right
With the death of Hume, Northern Ireland loses one of the most important politicians in recent history. His work is therefore praised by leaders of various currents.
Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin (Fianna Fáil) praises Hume as “a great hero and a peacemaker” and Northern Ireland Prime Minister Arlene Foster of the Democratic Unionists (DUP) speaks of “a greatness for Irish nationalism”.
“In our darkest days, he saw that violence was the wrong path and was firmly committed to democratic politics,” said Foster. The left-wing republican party Sinn Féin also commemorates his death. Leader Mary Lou McDonald calls him “a giant of a figure and a national icon”.
Consultation with arch-enemy
What was special about Hume’s strategy was that he was willing to involve both politicians and paramilitary groups in the peace talks, including militants who were in the US. For example, he already consulted Gerry Adams, the then leader of Sinn Féin, who is historically associated with the violent separatist movement IRA in the 1980s. Adams was considered the archenemy of the unionists.
When it became known in 1993 that Hume had secretly spoken to Adams, he was accused of “selling his soul to the devil.” He always emphasized that he was concerned about a truce with the IRA and when 1994 also saw a provisional ceasefire, his approach was confirmed.
In 1994, he officially began peace talks with Adams and then Prime Minister Albert Reynolds. Four years later, this consultation led to the Goedevrijdag accord, which still persists. Tony Blair, who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom when the agreement was signed, called Hume a “political titan”. “His contribution to peace in Northern Ireland was epic and he will be rightly remembered for this.”