R. I. P. John Hume (1937-2020)

Very sad news arrived this morning of the death at the age of 83 of civil rights campaigner and politician John Hume. He had been suffering from dementia for some time, and passed away earlier this morning in a nursing home in his native Derry. In that sense his death was not unexpected but I know from my own recent experience that won’t make it any easier for his loved ones. Condolences to John’s wife Pat and their family at what must be a difficult time for them.

John Hume, a Catholic, espoused the Irish nationalist cause but through non-violence, which often drew the ire of extremists on either side. Being moderate can be a dangerous position when you’re surrounded by armed factions. He became leader of the SDLP and was a key agent in the peace process that led to the construction of the Good Friday Agreement, a fact that was recognised in 1998 by a share of the Nobel Peace Prize (with David Trimble).

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” it says in the Gospel according to St Matthew. I wish more people – especially politicians – who profess to be Christian took that as seriously as John Hume.

There is a special connection between John Hume and Maynooth. He came here to St Patrick’s College initially to study for the priesthood. He didn’t pursue that aim but instead completed an MA degree in 1964 with a thesis on ‘Social and Economic Aspects of the Growth of Derry 1825 -1850’. Maynooth University recognises that connection with John & Pat Hume postgraduate scholarships and through the Hume building on campus.

John Hume was a man of great courage and integrity who dedicated his life to the cause of peace and mutual respect. He will be greatly missed.

I’ll end with a quote of his:

Ireland is not a romantic dream; it is not a flag; it is 4.5 million people divided into two powerful traditions. The solution will be found not on the basis of victory for either, but on the basis of agreement and a partnership.

And another:

All conflict is about difference, whether the difference is race, religion or nationality The European visionaries decided that difference is not a threat, difference is natural. Difference is of the essence of humanity. Difference is an accident of birth and it should therefore never be the source of hatred or conflict. The answer to difference is to respect it. Therein lies a most fundamental principle of peace – respect for diversity.

Rest in peace John Hume (1937-2020). Ar dheis Dé go raibh a h’anam dílis.

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