John Hume was a visionary peacemaker who was ahead of his time | UK News

The Catholic grandson of a Presbyterian clergyman, John Hume was born to be a peacemaker.

He briefly considered the priesthood but chose to study history and French instead, eventually becoming a teacher.

The Troubles were just beginning when he came to prominence through the Civil Rights Movement.

He described Bloody Sunday, when British soldiers shot 14 people dead in his native Derry, as “the worst day in my lifetime”.

The voice of moderate nationalism, Mr Hume sought Irish unity but by peaceful means.

He co-founded the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and led the party for 22 years.

Fiercely criticised for secret talks with Gerry Adams, he said he did not care “two balls of roasted snow” what the sceptics thought.

Having brought the Irish government on board, Washington helped him coax the British government to the negotiating table.

The Northern Ireland peace process had begun and would culminate four years later in the historic Good Friday Agreement.

John Hume, leader of the SDLP, talks to journalists on the steps of the County Antrim Hotel, near Belfast, this evening (Monday) as Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble (right) looks on. Following their meeting, the leaders agreed to seek talks with Prime Minister John Major on the future of Northern Ireland's economy. Photo by Brian Thompson/PA. SEE PA STORY ULSTER Politics.
John Hume co-founded the SDLP

The document bore a striking resemblance to a potential solution the visionary Mr Hume had scribbled on a piece of paper in 1975.

He had reached out to his Unionist counterpart David Trimble and the two leaders were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.

Mr Hume donated his share of the prize fund – nearly £300,000 – to two charities back home.

The former MP and MEP also received the Gandhi Peace Prize and Martin Luther King Award.

John Hume takes part in an interview after Northern Ireland votes in support of the peace deals signed on Good Friday
John Hume takes part in an interview after Northern Ireland votes in support of the peace deals signed on Good Friday

The only winner of all three accolades, in 2010 Irish broadcaster RTE named him “Ireland’s greatest” person.

In a poll of viewers, he had beaten Michael Collins, James Connolly, Bono and former President Mary Robinson.

Lauded at home and abroad for his peace-making, Pope Benedict made him a Knight Commander of the Papal Order of St. Gregory.

In recent years, his wife Pat had spoken openly about his battle with a form of dementia.

“Derry is a very dementia-friendly city. John can go for a walk. Every taxi in the city will stop for him.

“People love John,” she added.

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