John Hume: true patriot and a great Irishman

John Hume had what some disparagingly referred to as his ‘single transferable’ speech on how to resolve the Northern Ireland conflict.

At its core was a complete rejection of violence. He insisted peace, respect and justice provided the ONLY pathway to a shared Ireland, a united and peaceful people of Ireland, rather than the crude, self-maiming doctrine of a geographically united Ireland.

The late Nobel laureate, who died on Monday aged 83, deserves similar stature to that other great Irishman Daniel O’Connell from Derrynane.

Both of them demanded freedom, fair treatment, equality and justice for all the people of Ireland. But both of them, also, were unconditionally opposed to all kinds of political violence to achieve those ends, arguing that violence sustains and escalates conflict, sectarianism and the deep-rooted hatreds on which these are based.

Coming from Derry, John Hume recognised fully the dangers of intercommunal violence. He knew how young men, in particular, were enticed by the ugly charms of paramilitarism, such as those offered by the murderous Provisional IRA to nationalists.

Throughout the 1960s, ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, John Hume held fast to peaceful means only as a way to achieve an agreement. His crowning achievement came in 1998 with the Good Friday Agreement - a peace treaty that would not have been possible without him.

We must never forget the gift that John Hume’s life was to Ireland. He rose above the awful, evil darkness of paramilitary violence and appalling acts of sectarianism and as a great teacher, taught us the benefits of peace.

He was a true patriot, a great leader - a remarkable Irishman.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.