JOHN Hume, one of the greatest political figures in the history of these islands, passed away peacefully yesterday morning. He was 83 and had suffered from dementia for many years.

The world learned of his passing in a statement from his family: “We are deeply saddened to announce that John passed away peacefully in the early hours of the morning after a short illness.

“We would like to extend our deepest and heartfelt thanks to the care and nursing staff of Owen Mor nursing home in Derry. The care they have shown John in the last months of his life has been exceptional.

“As a family, we are unfailingly inspired by the professionalism, compassion, and love they have shown to John and all those under their care. We can never adequately show them our thanks for looking after John at a time when we could not. The family drew great comfort in being with John again in the last days of his life.”

His funeral is to take place tomorrow at St Eugene’s Cathedral in Derry. A book of condolence has been opened at the city’s Guildhall.


BORN in Derry in 1937 to Sam and Annie Hume, his father being of Scottish descent, John Hume trained for the Catholic priesthood at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, but left after graduation to become a teacher in his home city. He married Patricia Hone in 1960, the same year he helped set up the city’s credit union, the first in Northern Ireland.

He was drawn into the local civil rights movement and in 1968 he was leading a civil rights march through the city which was baton-charged by the Royal Ulster Constabulary. the following day he co-founded the Derry Citizens Action Committee.

On February 24, 1969, he was elected to the Stormont Parliament as an independent nationalist. The following year he co-founded the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) with Gerry Fitt and others. He would later serve in the short-lived Northern Ireland Executive created by the Sunningdale Agreement which he helped negotiate, and as an MP and also an MEP for Northern Ireland for many years.


HUME had always campaigned for the achievement of Irish unity through non-violent means. After succeeding Gerry Fitt as leader of the SDLP in 1979, he began a campaign to convince the Provisional IRA in particular that their aims could be achieved by peaceful means.

In the mid-1980s, he began a dialogue with the British and Irish Governments and Sinn Fein, which led to the Anglo-Irish Agreement which in turn led to direct negotiations with the Provisional IRA that led to their ceasefires.


WITHOUT a doubt the Good Friday Agreement would never have started, never mind be completed, without Hume’s total involvement. Shrewdly, it was he who insisted that the Agreement go to a referendum on both sides of the Border and its approval was perhaps the crowning moment of his life, coming just a year before the brain attack which precipitated his dementia and retirement from public life in 2001.

With Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble he was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace prize and was later recognised with the other great global peace awards, the Gandhi Prize and Martin Luther King Award, making him the only person to win all three. He was also voted Ireland’s Greatest Person in a 2010 poll by RTE.


A SMALL selection: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that Hume “led a life that made a difference and leaves a legacy that will live on”.

Former US president Bill Clinton said: “Hillary and I are deeply saddened by the passing of our friend John Hume, who fought his long war for peace in Northern Ireland.

“His chosen weapon: an unshakeable commitment to non-violence, persistence, kindness and love. With his enduring sense of honour he kept marching on against all odds towards a brighter future for all the children of Northern Ireland.”

Taoiseach Micheal Martin described Hume as a “great hero and a true peacemaker”, adding: “Throughout his long life he exhibited not just courage, but also fortitude, creativity and an utter conviction that democracy and human rights must define any modern society.”

Former prime minister Tony Blair said Hume was a “political titan” adding that he was “ a visionary who refused to believe the future had to be the same as the past”. “His contribution to peace in Northern Ireland was epic and he will rightly be remembered for it.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “John Hume was quite simply a political giant.”

But the best tributes came from the people of Derry over the past few years. At times he wandered and got lost but local people always made sure he got home safely.

John Hume inspired such respect, such love.