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John Hume: 'He helped forge the peace that held to this day'

Clinton leads tributes from across world as John Hume dies aged 83

Former US President Bill Clinton has led tributes from around the world to John Hume, saying his work to forge peace in Northern Ireland will be his lasting legacy.

The ex-SDLP leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner passed away on Monday at the age of 83. He had been ill for some time.

A towering figure in Irish politics, he is credited with laying the groundwork for the Good Friday Agreement.

Mourned in his home city of Derry on Monday as a hero of Ireland, moving tributes came from presidents, prime ministers and Taoisigh, past and present.

His funeral is to be held on Wednesday and his family have said it will follow coronavirus guidelines and asked those wanting to mark his death support a 'celebration of light for peace' by lighting a candle tonight at 9pm instead of lining the streets as his body is brought home.

The family said they were "very grateful for the outpouring of love and support following the death of their beloved John".

Mr Clinton said: "With his enduring sense of honour, he kept marching on against all odds towards a brighter future for all the children of Northern Ireland."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson described Mr Hume as a "political giant", while Irish premier Micheal Martin said he was a "great hero and a true peacemaker".

Former PM Tony Blair hailed Mr Hume's "epic" contribution to the peace process.

A founding member of the party he went on to lead for 22 years, Mr Hume was a key part of the civil rights movement of the late 1960s.

Steadfast in his commitment to non-violence, his participation in secret talks with then Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams in the late 1980s and early 1990s was a catalyst for the peace process.

It culminated in 1998 with the signing of the historic agreement which largely ended three decades of sectarian violence here.

Along with Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble, now Lord Trimble, Mr Hume was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his contribution to stopping the bloodshed.

In 2010, Mr Hume was named "Ireland's Greatest" in a poll by Irish state broadcaster RTE.

His death comes six months after that of fellow Good Friday architect and long-time SDLP deputy leader Seamus Mallon.

SDLP leader and Foyle MP Colum Eastwood described his predecessor as "Ireland's Martin Luther King".

Writing in a book of condolence in Derry on Monday, he added: "We live in the Ireland you imagined and built. Thank you from a grateful generation. Our leader always." However, the Hume legacy spread far beyond his native city, drawing tributes yesterday from around the world.

Mr Clinton said: "Through his faith in principled compromise, and his ability to see his adversaries as human beings, John helped forge the peace that has held to this day."

He added: "His legacy will live on in every generation of Northern Ireland's young people who make John's choice, to live free of the hatred and horror of sectarian violence."

Mr Blair, another architect of the peace process, said: "John Hume was a political titan; a visionary who refused to believe the future had to be the same as the past.


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

"His contribution to peace in Northern Ireland was epic and he will rightly be remembered for it. He was insistent it was possible, tireless in pursuit of it and endlessly creative in seeking ways of making it happen."

In Northern Ireland, tributes were led by First Minister Arlene Foster, who recalled a "giant in Irish nationalism".

"In our darkest days he recognised that violence was the wrong path and worked steadfastly to promote democratic politics," she said.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill described Mr Hume as a "huge political figure in our society for many decades".

"A leader who took risks that ultimately helped bring about peace, he will be sadly missed," she said. Lord Trimble said: "He was a politician who devoted his life to dealing with the situations that we have here."

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said it was "impossible to properly express the scale and significance of John Hume's life".

Tributes were also paid by the Irish rock band U2.

In 1998, during the campaign for a Yes vote in the peace deal referendum, Mr Hume appeared on stage at the Waterfront Hall with Mr Trimble and U2's Bono, in what became a defining image of the time.

On Monday night the band described him as "the greatest servant leader of them all", adding: "RIP John Hume".

Mr Hume led the SDLP from 1979 until 2001, and was MP for Foyle from 1983 to 2005.

He was also an MLA in the early years of the restored Assembly and an MEP from 1979 to 2004.

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

SDLP co-founder Austin Currie said "John Hume is the greatest Irishman since Parnell".

The mayor of Derry and Strabane, Brian Tierney, said he was "a true son of Derry and a hero of Ireland", adding: "RIP Ireland's greatest".

Mr Hume, who had dementia and in recent years had lived in a care home in Londonderry, died in the early hours of Monday morning

His family said: "John was a husband, a father, a grandfather, a great-grandfather and a brother. He was very much loved, and his loss will be deeply felt by all his extended family.

His funeral will take place in Derry tomorrow in a ceremony limited in size due to coronavirus restrictions.

Belfast Telegraph