Donaldson’s moving tribute to Hume


A chara, – On February 26th, I was a member of a panel, along with John Hume’s daughter Mo, a political scientist at Glasgow University, and Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP of the DUP, invited to join in a debate about Maurice Fitzpatrick’s outstanding film John Hume in America immediately after its screening at a venue in Westminster.

Most of the packed audience were clearly friends and admirers of John Hume, along with a good showing of MPs and Members of the House of Lords. Given the political moment, I had mentally prepared a few words critical of Mrs May’s disastrous espousal of the DUP and Brexit.

Mo Hume spoke brilliantly and with warm humour about her father’s vision.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, emphasising his unionist principles, paid a series of tributes to Hume’s approach over many years, his opposition to violence, his occasional espousal of “creative ambiguity” (“And mind you”, Donaldson said, “we can do with a dose of this in relation to Brexit”) and to Mr Hume’s role as the inventor and implementer of the peace process. He said: “In my early days in politics in Northern Ireland there were two schools of thought about how we could approach finding a solution. There was one school of thought which said that we have to fight it out, literally fight it out. And there was another school of thought which said that said, well, actually we need to build institutions – there was a big focus on institutions. And then John Hume came along with this idea that actually the solution was to be found in human relationships because that was the cause of the problem. You can talk all night about the wrongs and rights of Irish history but in the end it was down to people, each generation. And he designed a process which became the process that led to the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. And he designed it around addressing the three sets of relationships that impact on the conflict in Northern Ireland. I do not say this lightly – and I am a unionist, I come from a very different political perspective and I have had my ups and downs with the peace process, like many people – but I will say this: if John Hume had not designed the framework within which we build the peace and the peace process, and built it around addressing those three sets of relationships, we would not be having this conversation this evening about the peace process. It is as fundamental as that. He was out ahead of everyone in his thinking. We did not have anyone on the unionist side, and we had this siege mentality and we weren’t able to think beyond that.”

I was both flabbergassed and deeply moved. I had never met this man, the chief whip of the DUP.

I mentally jetissonned my intended onslought and publicly thanked him for what I humbly consider to be an acknowledgement of historic significance and one that gives me hope for the future. – Is mise,