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Brexit: 'My uncle John Hume is passionate about EU and our family fears for the peace he helped secure'

Mr Hume and David Trimble with their prizes in 1998
Mr Hume and David Trimble with their prizes in 1998
Brenda Stevenson, niece of Nobel Laureate John Hume
Donna Deeney

By Donna Deeney

A niece of John Hume has said the aspirations for peace her uncle spoke of in his Nobel Peace Prize speech 21 years ago - which he jointly accepted with Lord David Trimble - are being put at risk by the DUP and Sinn Fein.

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Brenda Stevenson told the Belfast Telegraph yesterday that she and her family are frightened for the future amid the ongoing political uncertainty.

She said the former SDLP leader told the world how he saw the European Union as an example of how to maintain peace in Northern Ireland, but she fears the peace he helped secure is in "danger" from Brexit.

Mrs Stevenson said: "Because it is 21 years since my uncle John received the Nobel Prize for Peace we have been reflecting on how far we have come and right now how little progress we have actually made.

"Looking back 21 years ago, I was a young mum with a newborn baby and a two-year-old and I was so full of hope for them."

She continued: "We had finally got the peace we wanted with the Good Friday Agreement that allowed us to be as Irish, as British or as European as we wanted to be and there were no borders, north, south, east or west of the island.

"John was so passionate about being in the European Union and recognised the importance of the EU as an example of successful conflict resolution.

"We have reaped so many benefits, such as the peace money which had such a positive impact on the two communities, allowing them to explore their identities and cultures.

"It was almost as if John was thinking 20 years ahead of himself but the reality of what has happened since the Tory Government recklessly threw out the idea of the Brexit referendum is where that has brought us now."

She added: "The majority of people here voted to remain and could see the benefits of us staying within Europe, both the economic benefits and the desire of people to be European and move freely within Europe.

"The blindsidedness of the DUP and their need to stay within their union, which they are actually wrecking under their own nose in my opinion.

"The DUP have left behind all the people who voted to remain and who saw the benefit of us being in the EU in the same way John did."

Mrs Stevenson also said that Sinn Fein has "sold that out as well because they are not at the negotiating table".

"They were an anti-European party for many years and it is only lately they have come into the conversation but you can't have a conversation outside a closed door at Westminster," she said.

"There is no voice speaking up for our needs and wants any more. And I, along with the rest of my family, reflecting on all the hard work my uncle John put into winning peace, (feel) this is an awful place to be at the minute where you hear radical voices talking about violence, hard borders and blood red lines."

Mr Hume's frail health has meant he has been absent from the political arena for many years.

Mrs Stevenson said no one on the current political landscape has the skills he had.

"John's message was consistent down through the years and that was violence will never get us anywhere, but that has been thrown away with the rhetoric, the language and the bitterness we hear day and daily now," she insisted.

"The peace we have is very fragile but I think if my uncle of 21 years ago was still active in politics today, we would not be in the mess we are in, but we don't have anyone with the integrity, skills of negotiation or leadership that he brought to the table."

Belfast Telegraph


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