John Hume at 80


Sir, – It is a sad irony that in the week that the institutions in the North collapse in acrimony and rancour, the man who towered over the chaos of the Troubles celebrates his 80th birthday.

John Hume was a shining beacon for peace, tolerance and accommodation for 40 years. Even in the darkest of days, he never lost faith in the primacy of politics and used non-violent constitutional means to chart a new future in the North and on the island.

The Irish Times once wrote that Ireland “owes no greater debt than to the man who insisted that living for Ireland is better than dying for it; that it is more challenging of the human spirit to learn to live with one’s adversaries than to subdue them”, and concluded, “John Hume has wrought the very basis of Ireland’s future.” Truer words have not been written.

Nearly 20 years ago, with courage and bravery he fashioned the ideas at the core of the Belfast Agreement. It remains his crowning glory and is a testament to his vision, leadership and negotiation skills.

The ambition and hopes of the Belfast Agreement may be under serious strain today. The best way to honour his 80th birthday is for all of us to reaffirm our pledge to the spirit of generosity and respect at the heart of the agreement.

As John Hume said in his Nobel speech, let us build a new Ireland based “on respect for diversity and for political difference. A future where all can rejoice in cherished aspirations and beliefs and where this can be a badge of honour, not a source of fear or division.” – Yours, etc,



West Belfast.