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John Hume - Ireland's Peacemaker

John Hume - Ireland's Peacemaker

"I want to see Ireland as an example to men and women everywhere of what can be achieved by living for ideals, rather than fighting for them, and by viewing each and every person as worthy of respect and honour. I want to see an Ireland of partnership where we wage war on want and poverty, where we reach out to the marginalised and dispossessed, where we build together a future that can be as great as our dreams allow."

John Hume Nobel Laureate Oslo 10 December 1998

While political violence in Northern Ireland has claimed more than 3,500 lives, John Hume never abandoned the quest for a peaceful solution. Inspired by the example of Martin Luther King, Jr., the young ex-seminarian led a non-violent civil rights movement in his home town of Derry.

As a founder and head of the SDLP, as a Member of the European Parliament, and as a member of Britain's House of Commons, he has worked continuously for peace, tolerance and international cooperation.

In 1988, Mr Hume began a series of contacts with the Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, which was to prove crucial in developing the current process.

Further talks became public in 1993 amid considerable controversy and hostility, especially from unionists. In defiant mood, Mr Hume declared he did not care "two balls of roasted snow" about all the criticism he faced.

The SDLP leader's strategy was to try to persuade Sinn Fein that the problem in Ireland was not so much the British presence but the divisions between the people of Ireland, Unionist and Nationalist.

He set aside partisan differences to meet with rival parties, and braved the ancient sectarian divide to negotiate with Unionist leaders in talks which led to the 1993 Joint Declaration by Britain and Ireland, and the 1994 cease-fire agreement between the IRA and Unionist paramilitaries.

The 1998 Good Friday agreement, ratified overwhelmingly by voters in Ireland, North and South, reflects principles John Hume has followed for his entire public life.

His efforts were recognised when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998. John Hume dared to look past centuries of conflict in his country and imagine a future where people of all religions can live together in peace and freedom.

He is rightly regarded as one of the most important figures in the recent political history of Ireland and the architect of the peace process in the North. In addition to his Nobel Prize he is also the recipient of the Gandhi Peace Prize and the Martin Luther King Award, and is the only person to have been awarded all three major peace awards. In 2010, John was voted "Ireland's Greatest" in a public poll by RTE, beating other leading and historical figures such as Bono, Mary Robinson and Micheal Collins.

Since his retirement from front-line politics, Mr Hume divides his time between his home town of Derry and Greencastle, Co Donegal, where he lives with his wife Pat. He remains a committed Derry City fan where he holds the position of club president.


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