John Hume, Irish nationalist, Northern Ireland peace broker, praised by Catholics, Protestants and world leaders

(Photo: SDLP)

John Hume was a Catholic nationalist who stood for Ireland as a unitary state, but he was also a peacemaker and straddled the divide into the mainly Protestant unionist camp at a time when Northern Ireland was in a state of deep conflict in the last century.

His funeral was at St, Eugene's Cathedral, Londonderry on Aug. 5 after he died two days earlier at the age of 83.

Ireland's President Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Micheál Martin and Northern Ireland's first and deputy first ministers Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill were among the mourners at the requiem mass.

Due to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, Hume's family had asked mourners to stay at home and light a "candle for peace" at their door in tribute ahead of the funeral which was tailored to the pandemic.

Hume was born in Londonderry in January 1937 at the height of the Depression, the son of an unemployed riveter, Reuters news agency wrote.


His father, his hero, urged him to avoid narrow nationalist chauvinism "because you can't eat a flag".

"What he was saying is what I am saying today, that real politics are not about flag-waving. They are about providing bread on your table and a roof over your head," Hume said.

He received plaudits from Catholic, Anglican and Protestant leaders as well as political leaders internationally for his role in the peace process.

"The death of John Hume, one of the greatest peacemakers and champions of social justice of our time, will be felt by many people locally and around the world," said the Catholic bishop of Derry, Bishop of Derry after his death.

"He dedicated his life to the welfare of this community, at no small cost to himself.

"While he strode the world stage, he remained firmly rooted in his local city. It was the specific circumstances that prevailed here in his native city that helped develop his vision for the future."

The tributes to Hume, one of the key architects of the Northern Ireland peace process, reflected his international reputation, the BBC reported.

Former US President Bill Clinton remembered his persistence and unshakeable commitment to non-violence, while former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, who was in office when the Good Friday Agreement for peace in Northern Ireland was signed, described him as a political titan.

His role in brokering the 1998 power-sharing arrangement, which brought an end to the region's sectarian violence involving groups like the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), saw him win a Nobel Peace Prize.

Hume was a co-recipient of the prize with, David Trimble when he was leader of the Ulster Unionist Party a party that stands Northern Ireland being part of the United Kingdom and not in a united Ireland.

The two had brought into the peace process warring sides seen as representing groups backed by minority Catholics and majority Protestants.

"In his campaign for peace, inspired by the example of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he employed a winning combination of public exhortation against the violence of the Irish Republican Army and secret diplomacy with its political leadership, sitting down for talks in his modest rowhouse over coffee. Deftly and persistently he enlisted the White House to help him reach his goal," Alan Cowell wrote in The New York Times on Aug 3.


The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Rev. David Bruce, said, "In pursuing a peaceful and just society, John Hume's belief that past grievances and injustices could give way to what he called 'a new generosity of spirit and action' should not be forgotten.

(Photo: Wikipedia)A mural of John Hume in Derry's Bogside, alongside fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureates Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa.

"He demonstrated a genuine desire to bring people together for the common good and to build a just and peaceful society. We give thanks for peacemakers, and on this sad day, John Hume in particular."

The Anglican Archbishop of Armagh, John McDowell, said Hume "will be remembered not only as a significant politician in Ireland but also for his unambiguous dedication to making political change happen by purely peaceful means."

Painted murals of Hume have long been a feature of the walls of Londonderry - also known as Derry - a city bordering Ireland which witnessed some of the darkest chapters of what is often referred to as "The Troubles" in Northern Ireland.

On one, his silhouette ranks besides fellow Nobel laureates Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King Jr.

As a boy, Hume attended Saint Columb's College in Derry before entering the seminary in Maynooth, in County Kildare in the Republic of Ireland, where he decided that the priesthood was not for him, RTE, the Irish national broadcaster reported.

He became a teacher and married Patricia in 1960.

A tribute from Pope Francis to Hume was read out at the funeral mass by Bishop McKeown.

"Mindful of the Christian faith that inspired John Hume's untiring efforts to promote dialogue, reconciliation and peace among the people of Northern Ireland, his Holiness commends his noble soul to the loving mercy of Almighty God," said Francis

The Irish pop star and celebrity Bono wrote, "We were looking for a giant and found a man whose life made all our lives bigger.".

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