Seven months after his right-hand man and Deputy Leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), Seamus Mallon passed, the leader of the SDLP, John Hume, has died peacefully in Owen Mor Nursing Home in Derry, Northern Ireland after a short illness.
Statement by President Higgins on the death of John Hume
“All of those who sought and worked for peace on our island of Ireland, and in the hearts of all, will have been deeply saddened by the passing of John Hume, Nobel Peace Laureate and Statesman.
John Hume, through his words, his astute diplomacy and willingness to listen to what was often difficult to accept but was the view of the ‘Other’,transformed and remodelled politics in Ireland, and the search for peace, with a personal bravery and leadership informed by a steadfast belief in the principles and values of genuine democracy.
John’s deep commitment to these values and his practical demonstration of tolerance and social justice, oftentimes in the face of strong opposition and tangible threats to his person and his family, asserted the fundamental principles of democracy. He and those others who helped usher in a discourse that enabled a new era of civil rights and responsive government that few would have thought possible, have placed generations in their debt, have been a source of hope.
That his efforts were recognised through the awarding of the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize brought great joy not only to his people in Derry, his colleagues in politics, particularly in the SDLP, but to a wider global set of colleagues and fellow advocates for peace abroad who held him in the greatest esteem and admiration.
Mar Uachtarán na hÉireann, as President of Ireland, may I say how deeply grateful we all should be that we had such a person as John Hume to create a light of hope in the most difficult of times.
It was Seamus Mallon, that other great statesman and courageous peace seeker and builder, who observed: “Inside was a man who had something big to do. There is a greatness about his political life in what he did and what he helped to do. I would put him in the same breath as Parnell and Daniel O Connell.”
We are grieving in this difficult year 2020 for two great apostles and seekers of peace.
Whatever the loss to all on this island, to his family his loss is greatest. To his wife Pat, his children, and all those who loved him, Sabina and I send our deepest sympathy.
Siochán siorraí le a anam.”
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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.
We would like also to extend our gratitude to the people of Derry and Moville/Greencastle, who have looked after John and shown us so much kindness as his dementia has progressed. Celebrating community in all its diversity went to the heart of John’s political ethos and we are very appreciative that our communities supported, respected and protected John.
John was a husband, a father, a grandfather, a great grandfather and a brother. He was very much loved, and his loss will be deeply felt by all his extended family.
John’s funeral will be arranged according to the current government regulations with very strict rules on numbers. We realise this will mean that many will be unable to join us and we will arrange a memorial service and a celebration of his life in due course. Above all, we know that John would have prioritised public health, and the safety and health of our communities. We are grateful for your condolences and support, and we appreciate that you will respect the family’s right to privacy at this time of great loss.
It seems particularly apt for these strange and fearful days to remember the phrase that gave hope to John and so many of us through dark times: we shall overcome.
Statement by the SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood on the death of John Hume
The death of John Hume represents the loss of 20th century Ireland’s most significant and consequential political figure. It is no exaggeration to say that each and every one of us now lives in the Ireland Hume imagined – an island at peace and free to decide its own destiny.
This is an historic moment on this island but most of all it is a moment of deep, deep sadness. In the days ahead, Ireland will be united in mourning his loss. However amidst that national mourning, it is equally true that the marking of John’s death also opens up a space to reflect on, and celebrate, the magnitude of his life.
As part of that reflection of John’s work, never has the beatitude rung truer - blessed be the peacemakers. The life of John Hume will forever be a blessing upon this island since Ireland is now blessed by the peace he gifted to us all. It is the greatest legacy a political leader can bestow upon his country.
Hume will always find a home amongst the pantheon of great Irish leaders and it is only right and natural that he will now be spoken of in the very same breath as O’Connell and Parnell. It is important that John’s endeavours are fully appreciated in terms of their sheer scale - his impact and legacy extends well beyond one lifetime and well beyond the confines of Northern Ireland. His life’s work brought to an end the seemingly intractable historical arc of bitter conflict between the neighbouring islands of Britain and Ireland.
After some 800 years which inflicted so much hurt and harm on all our peoples, it is John Hume who must now be remembered as the great healer of that history. For all of these reasons and more, John Hume truly was Ireland’s greatest.
Whilst John Hume lived most of his adult life at the centre of modern Irish history and its politics, it is important that we remember that for John’s family, he was the very centre of their lives and of their love. The Irish nation has lost a giant of its history but his family have lost a husband, a father and a grandfather. The thoughts, prayers and love of all the SDLP family are today with the entire Hume family – with his children Terese, Aine, Aidan, John and Mo, his brothers and sisters and all his grandchildren.
Most especially our thoughts are with his loving wife Pat who cared for and carried alongside John the very same burdens over many dark and difficult years. In the coming days, weeks and months I know that people will be eager to encase the Hume family in the very same warmth, gentleness and infectious humanity which Pat has shared with everyone she has ever met.
It is especially poignant that John’s death has occurred as we concluded celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement, a time which first awakened his political journey. Witnessing the enflamed streets of the 1960’s and a community determined to rise up and put an end to the systematic discrimination of the state, John choose to build a politics and a political party which was true to its time and true to the aspirations and the needs of our people.
In setting off on that political path, John embodied and thus gave birth to a new political creed on this island, transforming the conflicting traditions which had rigidly defined our past. That new creed imagined a better and a shared future beyond the rubble of our history. It taught us that it is far better to live for Ireland than to die for Ireland, it challenged us to pursue the path of politics rather than the reactionary instinct of violence, it dared us always to choose principle ahead of easy populism and it told us that human difference doesn’t have to mean division.
The Good Friday Agreement, embraced and endorsed by the Irish people in 1998, is the institutional embodiment of that creed and its vision. John was not simply the Agreement’s architect or its builder, he was very much both. He will forever remain its enduring inspiration.
Through the power of John’s truly European imagination, through the depth of his language, he proved that solutions and partnership were possible and that even the greatest obstacles could be overcome. The three strands of relationships, amongst and between the islands of Britain and Ireland, remains a template of genuine genius and, if utilised, its structures and original ethos still hold the potential to guide us through and beyond the turbulence of our political present.
As a result of his efforts, Hume achieved the rarest of things in a political career – he became a living statesman. It is telling that John Hume remains the only person to have received the Gandhi Peace Prize, the Martin Luther King Award and of course the Nobel Peace Prize. In truth though and true to his character, the greatest reward for John was not personal recognition – it was instead found in the end to the violence and death which had taken ownership of our streets for far too long.
As part of our refection, a special mention is appropriate for the city that was always so special to John Hume. Today, Derry is a city shrouded in grief. Derry was beloved by John and in return he was beloved by the people of this city. Whether in Washington, Brussels, London or Dublin, John’s first thought was always for the people of his hometown. His early involvement in the Credit Union Movement and later his success in bringing thousands of jobs was testament to the fact that forefront in Hume’s mind was always the cause of social justice and fighting poverty. John brought hope back into this city where it was too often in short supply. It is something our city will never forget.
John Hume once summed up his political philosophy in saying, ‘I never thought in terms of being a leader. I thought very simply in terms of helping people.’ The simplicity of that statement remains a powerful insight into the patriotic devotion that came to define the man. Having spent his life in the service of others, no-one is more deserving of the eternal rest which now awaits him.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
In America, John Hume was honored as the first recipient of the iBAM! Award for Person of the Year in 2009.
God Rest John Hume
God rest the noble soul of John Hume. He has loomed large in Irish history and will continue to do so.
May he rest in God’s eternal life, love, and peace.
I extend my sympathy to Mrs. Hume and all the family.
Fr. Sean Mc Manus
Irish National Caucus