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Malachi O'Doherty

Hume suggested power-sharing in 1972... little did he think he'd wait 30 years for it to materialise

Malachi O'Doherty


Future SDLP leader's plan was a compromise between majority rule and a united Ireland

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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

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

For God's sake, lads, give me a break. This was John Hume saying something he never said during an interview. It was during the party conference one year at the Killyhevlin and Hume had been standing with a group of party colleagues during an interval. The cameras had gathered round to capture the image of the party leader relaxing. But Hume was having a fag and he didn't want to be seen on television smoking.

There was something in the manner in which he said it, chasing the cameramen and photographers not in the high-handed tone that some of his contemporaries would have adopted when their privacy was invaded. It was more, "wise up", or "lay off". It was saying, "You know yourselves".

And everyone understood. They could have got the telling pic that said the grumpy man of Northern Irish politics had an easy, affable side to him, but they had a more human obligation to another hard worker who was entitled to have a fag without having to sneak out into the rain for it. That's what Hume had appealed to. And with an astute media sense that smoking was a bad look.