Belfast Telegraph

Dementia-suffering John Hume now oblivious to peace role, wife reveals

By Ivan Little

Former SDLP leader John Hume doesn't remember the peace process that he helped to build, his wife has admitted.

Pat Hume's heartbreaking revelation came on an RTE television programme looking back at the Nobel Peace Prize winner's legacy.

Standing on the Peace Bridge in Londonderry, Mrs Hume replied to a question on Nationwide about her husband's ailing health by addressing his struggle with dementia.

She said: "He actually doesn't remember the peace process now, that he spent his entire life (on)."

Mrs Hume said her husband's memory was not good, and that he could ask the same question 20 times.

She added of the support she has encountered: "Derry people are great. They're the kindest in the world."

Eleven days ago Mr Hume was too ill to attend a ceremony at Queen's University in Belfast to mark the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

Key players in the 1998 peace deal were there, including Mr Hume's joint Nobel winner David Trimble, ex-US President Bill Clinton and former British and Irish premiers Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern.

But Mr Hume's key role in bringing peace after his heavily-criticised talks with Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams was acknowledged at the event by Senator George Mitchell, who brokered the deal at Castle Buildings in April 1998.

Senator Mitchell described Mr Hume as one of the "greatest political leaders in Ireland".

Mr Hume, who was 81 in January, has been suffering from dementia for many years.

But he was regularly seen in his old haunts in Derry, and his wife said everyone in the city loved him and looked after him.

In 2015 she disclosed that her husband first became ill in the late 1990s when he was speaking in Austria.

Last December she received a standing ovation after paying an emotional tribute to him at the launch of a new book containing extracts from speeches he made throughout his career.

John Hume: In His Own Words was written by former SDLP MLA Sean Farren, a close friend of his former party leader.

On Nationwide last night, Mrs Hume recalled how her husband asked the organisers of the Bloody Sunday march in January 1972 to postpone it or have it in a less built-up area than the Bogside.

She said his plea came after he saw civil rights demonstrators beaten off a beach at Magilligan by soldiers the week before the Derry march.

She added that when he saw paratroopers at Magilligan he was "incredibly worried", but the organisers of the ill-fated march in Derry told him most of the plans were in place and they couldn't postpone it.

Mrs Hume said close friends of her and her husband arrived at their home after Bloody Sunday.

She added: "They were absolutely panic-stricken with the soldiers just going mad and shooting all round them."

Thirteen people were killed and another man died five months later from his wounds. Mrs Hume said her husband had worked hard on the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985 and on the Good Friday Agreement 13 years later:

"It was a long, long process. He was always completely anti-violence, which wasn't popular at the time because so much had been done to people and they reacted."

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