Pat Hume remembered as a ‘determined force’ for peace in Northern Ireland

Wife of SDLP co-founder and Nobel Laureate John Hume dies ‘surrounded by family’ in Derry

Tributes have been paid to Pat Hume and her contribution to peace in Northern Ireland following her death on Thursday evening after a short illness.

Mrs Hume, the wife of Nobel Laureate John Hume, "died as she lived - surrounded by family, peacefully and generous to the end" at her home in Derry, her family said in a statement.

Colum Eastwood, leader of the SDLP, which Mr Hume helped to found, said that without Mrs Hume "there would have been no peace process in Ireland, that's the simple truth".

Born in Derry, she married Mr Hume in 1960 and they had five children. Mrs Hume left teaching to manage his constituency office - where she became a point of contact for local people seeking help. She was by Mr Hume’s side for six decades until his death in August of last year.


Her funeral will take place in Derry on Monday.

President Michael D. Higgins said Mrs Hume had made an “extraordinary contribution to life on this island and beyond” and her work would “always have an indelible place in the minds of all Irish people.”

‘Total commitment’

Her life, he said, “was one of total commitment to community, to the possibilities of peace, to the measures of non-violence that were necessary to assert, vindicate and achieve the results of civil rights”.

Former US first lady Hillary Clinton said Mrs Hume was a "gracious, determined force behind the achievement of peace in Ireland" and she and Mr Hume "made the world a better place and set an example for us all".

The head of the Catholic church in Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, said Mrs Hume was Derry's "first lady and a friend to all who suffered during troubled times".

Taoiseach Micheál Martin praised the “tremendous contribution” the Humes made to “peace and stability on this island” and noted Mrs Hume’s “resilience and courage on the path to peaceful change”.

She was Mr Hume’s “partner in family life and in political life … his trusted adviser at key political moments and his anchor in their beloved Derry,” he said.

Northern secretary Brandon Lewis said Mrs Hume had "worked tirelessly and courageously for peace in Northern Ireland" and her partnership with her husband was "crucial to the whole peace process".

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said Mrs Hume was a "dedicated and important voice for peaceful change" and "leaves a great legacy".

Risks taken

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald praised the “courage, generosity and risks taken by both herself and John to achieve peace in Ireland”.

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson sent his "deepest sympathies" to the Hume family. "A unique life well lived and no-one who met John left the conversation without knowing Pat."

US Congressman Richard Neal said he was “deeply saddened” at the death of his “good friend” Mrs Hume, describing her as a “remarkable woman who became a role model to many people on both sides of the Atlantic who are determined to make Ireland a more peaceful and more prosperous place for future generations”.

The Bishop of Derry, Dr Donal McKeown, said Mrs Hume was “small in stature but a colossus at a very difficult time in the history of this island” and the “rock behind the man who rightly has been credited as the architect of our current peace”.

In a statement, the Hume family praised the healthcare workers who cared for their mother, saying she saw the “outstanding work” and “pressures that they are facing due to Covid” during a hospital stay prior to her death.

“She would prioritise public health at all times,” they said, adding that the funeral would adhere to Covid-19 guidance and the wake would be restricted to family only.

Freya McClements

Freya McClements

Freya McClements is Northern Editor of The Irish Times