‘He was the Derryman always there for you’: Derry remembers John Hume
Citizens and visitors to Derry give their thoughts on John Hume
Derry businessman Niall Smyth: ‘He was a very passionate Derryman who took this country out of the middle ages.’
The esteem in which John Hume was held locally, nationally and internationally was reflected in tributes paid to him by citizens of and visitors to the streets of his home town of Derry on Monday.
Local businessman Niall Smyth said together with Nelson Mandela, “John was my absolute political hero.
“He brought people with him. That was his strength. We would never have made the progress here without him. There are very few people I would be in absolute awe of but John Hume was one. He was a very passionate Derryman who took this country out of the middle ages,” he said.
Students Sinéad Harkin, 21 and Mollie Moore, 22, said the younger generation in Northern Ireland benefitted from the sacrifices made by Mr Hume.
“His political achievements were immense,” said Ms Harkin. And Ms Moore described him as “an inspirational political figure to her”.
“He was a singular and an incredible human being. As a student I used to sit in the classroom where he taught in the former St Columb’s College. He did not stop until he had rectified injustices where ever they were. He had gravitas and he gave hope,” she said.
Returning to her native city was Mairéad Nic Anridire, a Dominican sister from Dublin, and her colleague Sabine Schratz, who is originally from Germany.
“My two brothers taught with John in St Columb’s College here in Derry,” said Sr Mairéad.
“He was a man of high intelligence and of the highest integrity. He was a people’s person who was true to the peace process.
“He gave his whole life to the peace process. He made incredible sacrifices, both politically and personally, to deliver peace, and despite many setbacks he stayed with it and delivered it,” she said.
Sr Sabine said she studied in Ireland during the secret negotiations which led up to the Good Friday Agreement.
“Even when I was in Germany he was recognised there as a man of peace,” she said.
‘Handy spin bowler’
Lawrence Moore recalled Mr Hume as a “handy spin bowler” at the Waterside Cricket Club in the 1960s. He also canvassed for him during numerous elections.
“I knew John all of my life,” he said. “In terms of his politics he did not want to see anybody, and I mean anybody, trampled upon. I liked and admired him enormously. He was a great raconteur and many a long night we spent listening to John telling stories.
“When I saw him on the international stage meeting and greeting global leaders, I got a lump in my throat the size of a golf ball such was my pride in his achievements.”
One of his greatest achievements was in setting up the Credit Union Movement in Derry and in Ireland, he added.
Co Cork visitors to Derry, Daniel O’Connor, 25, a quantity surveyor from Ovens, and Jack Daly, 26, an accountant from Donoughmore, said they were both well aware of Mr Hume’s reputation.
“We can come from the Republic of Ireland to a now peaceful Northern Ireland thanks to John Hume. He is the name, the most prominent name, that stands out in Irish history. Okay, there are still some pockets here and there in terms of violence, but violence exists in every society,” Mr O’Connor said.
And Mr Daly described the Nobel laureate as a pantheon of peace.
“From his early involvement in the Civil Rights Movement through to the international stage, he believed in equality regardless of creed. He was against sectarianism and he rejected the eye for an eye philosophy by saying it only left people blind,” he said.
Local man Hugh McDaid said he joined the SDLP because of Mr Hume.
“He was the Derryman always there for you. Him and his wife Pat were a great team. He brought the people all together, nowhere more so than here in Derry,” he said.