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John Hume: From diverting off path to priesthood to civil rights campaigner, Good Friday Agreement architect and Nobel laureate

John Hume was regarded by many as the driving force behind Northern Ireland’s 1998 Good Friday peace agreement.

Born in January 18, 1937, Hume attended Derry’s St Columb’s College and St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, intending to study as a priest.

Abandoning the idea, he returned to Derry and became a teacher at St Columb’s.

He first rose to prominence as a founding member of Derry’s Credit Union and also became Chair of the University for Derry Committee in 1965.

When the university campaign failed Hume became a leading figure in the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement, calling for equal rights and housing for Catholics in the unionist-dominated Northern Ireland.

John Hume 1937 - 2020: A life in pictures Close

John Hume playing with his children

John Hume playing with his children

John Hume is carried aloft through Londonderry city centre after being returned as MP for Foyle in 1987

John Hume is carried aloft through Londonderry city centre after being returned as MP for Foyle in 1987

John Hume on his wedding day with wife Pat

John Hume on his wedding day with wife Pat

John Hume is detained by soldiers during a civil rights protest in Londonderry in August 1971.

John Hume is detained by soldiers during a civil rights protest in Londonderry in August 1971.

John Hume

John Hume

John Hume in thoughtful mood at the SDLP party conference in Newcastle in 1979

John Hume in thoughtful mood at the SDLP party conference in Newcastle in 1979

Bertie Ahern and John Hume as they took part in a press conference on the 10th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement in Belfast. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.

Bertie Ahern and John Hume as they took part in a press conference on the 10th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement in Belfast. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.

U2 star Bono is flanked by David Trimble and John Hume on stage during a special concert in Belfast to promote the ‘Yes’ vote in the referendum on the Good Friday Agreement (Chris Bacon/PA)

U2 star Bono is flanked by David Trimble and John Hume on stage during a special concert in Belfast to promote the ‘Yes’ vote in the referendum on the Good Friday Agreement (Chris Bacon/PA)

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John Hume with his good friend, Senator Ted Kennedy, in the Bogside

John Hume with his good friend, Senator Ted Kennedy, in the Bogside

John Hume with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan

John Hume with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan

John Hume and his wife Pat at the Foyle Arts Centre in Londonderry after hearing that he and David Trimble were to share the Nobel Peace Prize

John Hume and his wife Pat at the Foyle Arts Centre in Londonderry after hearing that he and David Trimble were to share the Nobel Peace Prize

Photopress Belfast

John Hume with party colleague Seamus Mallon

John Hume with party colleague Seamus Mallon

John Hume and David Trimble with U2 frontman Bono celebrating the Good Friday Agreement

John Hume and David Trimble with U2 frontman Bono celebrating the Good Friday Agreement

The SDLP team led by leader John Hume arrives at Stormont in 1999 to start the process of selecting ministers for the devolved government

The SDLP team led by leader John Hume arrives at Stormont in 1999 to start the process of selecting ministers for the devolved government

John Hume waiting for the verdict of the referendum on the Good Friday Agreement, David Trimble, Tony Blair and John Hume at Dunadry in Co Antrim

John Hume waiting for the verdict of the referendum on the Good Friday Agreement, David Trimble, Tony Blair and John Hume at Dunadry in Co Antrim

Photopress Belfast

John Hume waiting for the verdict of the referendum on the Good Friday Agreement, David Trimble, Tony Blair and John Hume at Dunadry in Co Antrim

John Hume waiting for the verdict of the referendum on the Good Friday Agreement, David Trimble, Tony Blair and John Hume at Dunadry in Co Antrim

Photopress Belfast

Hometown heroes: John Hume celebrates with Derry City players after their 2010 First Division win

Hometown heroes: John Hume celebrates with Derry City players after their 2010 First Division win

SPORTSFILE

Former SDLP leader John Hume and Bill Clinton pictured in front of the Guildhall. Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye.

Former SDLP leader John Hume and Bill Clinton pictured in front of the Guildhall. Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye.

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams (left) and SDLP leader John Hume (Chris Bacon/PA)

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams (left) and SDLP leader John Hume (Chris Bacon/PA)

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John Hume worked with Ian Paisley

John Hume worked with Ian Paisley

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SDLP leader John Hume with his wife Pat speak to the media after he and David Trimble won the Nobel Peace Prize (PA)

SDLP leader John Hume with his wife Pat speak to the media after he and David Trimble won the Nobel Peace Prize (PA)

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John Hume in front of the Stormont Building in 2002 (Paul Faith/PA)

John Hume in front of the Stormont Building in 2002 (Paul Faith/PA)

John Hume with David Trimble (PA)

John Hume with David Trimble (PA)

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Bill Clinton in front of the Guildhall with former SDLP leader John Hume and his wife Pat. Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye.

Bill Clinton in front of the Guildhall with former SDLP leader John Hume and his wife Pat. Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye.

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

SDLP Conference, St Columb's Hall, Derry 12th March 2016. SDLP Leader Colm Eastwood John Hume at the conclusion of the conference Photo:Presseye.

SDLP Conference, St Columb's Hall, Derry 12th March 2016. SDLP Leader Colm Eastwood John Hume at the conclusion of the conference Photo:Presseye.

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

File photo dated 19/10/2000 of the Dalai Lama (left) meeting with fellow Nobel peace laureate John Hume, the former SDLP leader has died at the age of 83. Photo: Martin McCullough/PA Wire

File photo dated 19/10/2000 of the Dalai Lama (left) meeting with fellow Nobel peace laureate John Hume, the former SDLP leader has died at the age of 83. Photo: Martin McCullough/PA Wire

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File photo dated 24/08/2014 of John Hume and his wife Pat, the former SDLP leader has died at the age of 83. PA Photo.Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

File photo dated 24/08/2014 of John Hume and his wife Pat, the former SDLP leader has died at the age of 83. PA Photo.Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

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Handout File photo dated 12/04/2000 of Former South African President Nelson Mandela meeting John Hume at the South African Embassy in Dublin Photo: PA Wire

Handout File photo dated 12/04/2000 of Former South African President Nelson Mandela meeting John Hume at the South African Embassy in Dublin Photo: PA Wire

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John Hume playing with his children

At the age of 27 he became the President of the Irish League of Credit Unions and later called this his proudest achievement.

He was first elected to the Parliament of Northern Ireland in 1969 as an independent nationalist before joining the SDLP as a founding member in 1970 alongside the likes of Gerry Fitt and Seamus Mallon.

Hume actively discouraged the Bloody Sunday march in Derry on January 30 1972 fearing it would lead to violence.

Fourteen people were killed when British soldiers opened fire on an anti-interment protest.

Elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1973, Hume served as Minister for Commerce in the short-lived power-sharing government of 1974.

The government was toppled when the Ulster Workers’ Council Strike forced UUP Chief Executive Brian Faulkner to resign from his post.

Throughout the 1970s and 80s Hume made repeated trips to America in an attempt to get support for his peace and power-sharing agenda.

He became highly influential in Irish-American circles and helped secure a 1977 statement from then US President Jimmy Carter in support of finding a peaceful solution to the problems in Northern Ireland.

Hume replaced Fitt as SDLP leader in May 1979 and was elected as a Member of European Parliament for Northern Ireland in June of the same year.

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Annual SDLP Conference in Belfast Europa Hotel. John Hume (leader) and Seamus Mallon and Sean Farren. 28/29/30 Jan 1983.

Annual SDLP Conference in Belfast Europa Hotel. John Hume (leader) and Seamus Mallon and Sean Farren. 28/29/30 Jan 1983.

Annual SDLP Conference in Belfast Europa Hotel. John Hume (leader) and Seamus Mallon and Sean Farren. 28/29/30 Jan 1983.

He was elected as the first MP for Foyle in 1983.

In the same year Hume founded The New Ireland Forum which published proposals to achieve a political solution in Northern Ireland.

This combined with Hume’s influence in America helped pave the way for the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985.

Facing fierce criticism from unionists and some within his own party, Hume agreed to meet with the IRA leadership in the mid 1980’s.

The talks with IRA and Sinn Fein leaders eventually helped contribute to the 1994 IRA ceasefire.

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Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams (left) and SDLP leader John Hume (Chris Bacon/PA)

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams (left) and SDLP leader John Hume (Chris Bacon/PA)

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Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams (left) and SDLP leader John Hume (Chris Bacon/PA)

Hume and the SDLP played a key role in the talks that led to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, culminating a 30-year quest for a peaceful solution to the political and social problems in Northern Ireland.

He famously appeared onstage with UUP leader David Trimble and U2’s Bono to urge people to vote in favour of the agreement.

Hume and Trimble were awarded the 1998 Noble Peace Prize for their efforts.

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From left, David Trimble, Bono and John Hume promoting the Good Friday Agreement in 1998

From left, David Trimble, Bono and John Hume promoting the Good Friday Agreement in 1998

From left, David Trimble, Bono and John Hume promoting the Good Friday Agreement in 1998

He rejected the opportunity to become deputy First Minister in the new Northern Ireland Assembly, formed after the agreement, instead proposing long-time SDLP deputy Seamus Mallon in his place.

Hume stepped down as SDLP leader in 2001 to be replaced by protege Mark Durkan.

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Former SDLP Party  Leader John Hume shakes the hand of Seamus Mallon after he ruled himself out for the post of Second Minister of the new Northern Ireland Assembly and nominated his Deputy Seamus Mallon instead

Former SDLP Party Leader John Hume shakes the hand of Seamus Mallon after he ruled himself out for the post of Second Minister of the new Northern Ireland Assembly and nominated his Deputy Seamus Mallon instead

Former SDLP Party Leader John Hume shakes the hand of Seamus Mallon after he ruled himself out for the post of Second Minister of the new Northern Ireland Assembly and nominated his Deputy Seamus Mallon instead

The veteran politician announced his complete retirement from politics in February 2004.

He stepped down from his role as an MEP in 2004 and his Westminster role in 2005.

In 2010 he was voted ‘Ireland’s Greatest Person’ in an RTE poll.

A Documentary 'John Hume in America' was released in 2017 detailing the role played by Hume in gaining US support for peace in Northern Ireland.

US President Bill Clinton called Hume “Ireland’s answer to Martin Luther King” for the role he played in the peace process.

On Monday, August 3, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said his passing was an historic moment, but also one of immense sadness.

"As part of that reflection of John’s work, never has the beatitude rung truer - blessed be the peacemakers," he said.

"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."

Belfast Telegraph