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George Bernard Shaw said 'a gentleman is one who puts more into the world than he takes out'... that sentiment could have been written about John Hume

Marisa McGlinchey


The academic Marisa McGlinchey first met the former SDLP leader at his Derry home 17 years ago. Here she recalls his explanation of his party's electoral eclipse by Sinn Fein

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John Hume’s funeral at St Eugene’s Cathedral in Londonderry

John Hume’s funeral at St Eugene’s Cathedral in Londonderry

Marisa McGlinchey with John Hume

Marisa McGlinchey with John Hume

John Hume’s funeral at St Eugene’s Cathedral in Londonderry

On May 18, 1998, one of the most iconic images of the past 25 years in the north of Ireland was created as John Hume and David Trimble stood onstage in Belfast at either side of U2's Bono. The Good Friday Agreement had been signed one month earlier and the jubilant atmosphere at the concert was evident as the three smiling figures stood holding hands which were raised to the sky. The air was tinged with hope that the agreement would be endorsed by the people in referenda three days later, which it was in the north by 71%.

Hume's thinking since the 1970s underpinned much of the agreement and the SDLP entered the negotiations as the largest representative of the nationalist community. Amid the current reigning duopoly of the DUP and Sinn Fein, some may forget that the SDLP was nationalist top dog until 2001. It is with a certain irony that only three years after arguably the party's greatest achievement since its inception in 1970 it was electorally surpassed by its nationalist rival.

Why did the SDLP electorally decline in the immediate post-agreement period, rather than reap the anticipated electoral dividends? This was the question I was pursuing when I first met John Hume in his Derry home 17 years ago.