Tributes have flowed in for Nobel Peace laureate and former leader of the SDLP, John Hume, who died on Monday at the age of 83.
One of the key architects of Northern Ireland’s peace process, in 1998, the year the Good Friday Agreement was signed ending the conflict in Northern Ireland, John Hume and the UUP’s David Trimble jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize.
A tireless campaigner for peace, he opened up a dialogue with Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams in the early 1990s which paved the way for peace negotiations which culminated in the Good Friday Agreement.
From the 1960s he was involved in the civil rights movements, highlighting the appalling circumstances and discrimination against Catholics in Northern Ireland.
He served as an MP for Foyle between 1983 and 2005 and as a MEP from 1979 until 2004, believing that the EU provided a context for all sides to mutually respect and acknowledge their different identities.
Hume was a founder member of Derry Credit Union and at 27 became the youngest ever President of the Irish League of Credit Unions.
A former seminarian at St Patrick’s College Maynooth, in 2012, Pope Benedict XVI made him a Knight Commander of the Papal Order of St Gregory the Great.
“Today we are remembering a paragon of peace, a giant of a statesman whose legacy of unstinting service to the Common Good is internationally acclaimed, even though it is still perhaps only unfolding,” Archbishop Eamon Martin said in his tribute.
The Archbishop, who grew up in Derry during the Troubles, said John Hume put Catholic Social Teaching into practice and lived out the principle of ‘Ní neart go cur le chéile’ (there is no strength without working together).
“His secret was to encourage the pooling of ideas and resources to raise the hopes and opportunities for all,” the Primate of All Ireland said.
In his tribute, Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor said John Hume was “Motivated by a strong personal faith and responding to the needs of the community”. Describing the Derry politician as a champion of Human Rights, he said he actively sought to protect the most vulnerable across society.
The Bishop of Down and Connor said Hume exercised and exemplified “a model of civic leadership through dialogue. John had a visionary capacity to view the local political and societal challenges through the wider prism of human dignity and International partnership.”
An architect of reconciliation and peace in Northern Ireland, especially in his home city of Derry, John Hume uniquely shaped a new and prophetic political narrative which enabled the decommissioning and disarmament of weapons and generated an infrastructure for a peace process that led to the Good Friday Agreement, and the foundations of a new politics that is his lasting legacy, Bishop Treanor said.
John Hume is the only person to have been awarded the Gandhi Peace Prize, the Martin Luther King Award, as well as the Nobel Peace Prize. In 2010, he was voted ‘Ireland's Greatest Person’. He is survived by his wife Pat and five children.