Belfast Telegraph

Greysteel: John Hume's tears for victims... 'it was all just so senseless'

BY CHRIS KILPATRICK

Nobel Peace Laureate John Hume has described the Greysteel massacre as "a terrible crystallisation of the senselessness of violence".

Pictures of the former SDLP leader crying at the funerals of five of those killed were beamed across the world in 1993.

At the time the politician was under intense pressure from political opponents, sections of the media, and even from within the ranks of his own party, because of his ongoing talks with Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams.

As he walked behind the funeral cortege of one of those killed, a relative of the victim approached Mr Hume.

She urged him to continue to push for lasting peace so no other family would suffer in the way hers had.

The sentiment overwhelmed Mr Hume, who broke down in tears.

"As television footage shows, I was completely emotionally overwrought by the shock and horror of what had happened," he told the Belfast Telegraph last night.

"The tragedy was a terrible crystallisation of the senselessness of violence."

Less than a year later, the work to establish a lasting peace was rewarded when the IRA declared a cessation of violence. The UDA/UFF, too, declared an end to its activities.

"At the time I was receiving a lot of criticism for my efforts – for the dialogue I was engaged in – to bring the violence to an end," said Mr Hume previously. "I have to say that that very moving occasion encouraged me enormously to continue with my efforts to achieve a complete end to violence.

"It is the duty of all true democrats to fully implement the will of the people by implementing all aspects of the Good Friday Agreement. No paramilitary organisation can any longer claim it is acting in the name of the people."

The most crucial phase of Mr Hume's political career came in 1988 when he began a series of contacts with Sinn Fein leader Mr Adams. These proved crucial in developing the peace process.

Further talks became public in 1993 amid considerable controversy and hostility, especially from unionists.

Mr Hume declared he did not care "two balls of roasted snow" about all the criticism he faced.

He was a tireless and complete opponent of violence in Northern Ireland, whether carried out by the IRA, loyalist paramilitaries or the security forces.

He went on to campaign vigorously for a 'Yes' vote in the referendum on the Agreement, symbolically sharing a stage with Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble and Bono of U2 in an effort to swing wavering unionists behind the agreement.

Mr Hume was co-recipient of the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize, with Mr Trimble.

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