Remembering John Hume

 

Sir, – My adult life was foreshadowed by chaos, sectarianism and rubble in my beloved Derry city. I witnessed death and horrific life-changing injuries working as young nurse in Altnagelvin Hospital from 1968 onwards.

From the rubble and ruin of the city, an eloquent, measured voice emerged. A visionary young man took up the baton of leadership. Unwavering on his journey to find a framework acceptable to everybody in a tiny part of Ireland that had turned in on itself in hatred and strife. The young man was John Hume.

I followed his influences on a non-violent road to peace and social justice. The principles he espoused influenced all of my working life at home and abroad especially in the deprived areas of London.

John Hume eventually found a possible resolution to an intractable problem within in a European context enabled by global influencers in Washington.

He worked tirelessly for peace and social justice. Ireland has lost a great leader who will be sorely missed us. We will particularly miss his hand on the tiller of the ship as we rapidly approach the precipice that is Brexit. – Yours, etc,

SILBHE MCSHANE,

Florence, Italy.

Sir, – Many years ago my wife and I found ourselves in the company of John Hume and his wife for a few late-night drinks at the MacGill Summer School here in Glenties. We, of course, knew we were with someone special and a great night was had. But after seeing Miriam O’Callaghan’s excellent programme in the Ireland’s Greatest series back in 2010, we then realised we had met one of the world’s really good human beings, way up there with Gandhi, King and Mandela. May this good man now rest in peace. – Yours, etc,

BRIAN MC DEVITT,

Glenties, Co Donegal.

Sir, – I had the honour to meet John Hume on a number of occasions. One particular occasion sticks out in my memory and says a lot about his attitude to the peace process.

It was 1995 and not long after the ceasefires of 1994. People from Northern Ireland, including civic leaders and politicians, had been invited to attend an economic conference in Washington DC to explore the potential “peace dividend” from an end to the Troubles.

In one of a number of functions to welcome the delegates to the conference – this time I believe by the Ireland Funds – John Hume was there along with most leading politicians at the time such as David Trimble and Seamus Mallon and leading Irish Americans such as Ted Kennedy.

The formalities at the event were delayed for a long time because a special guest was held up, apparently doing press interviews. At long last the banqueting room doors opened and TV crews reversed to get shots of the VIP who followed, surrounded by more press and aids. One TV camera man half asked, half pushed John Hume to one side so be sure he got a good shot of Gerry Adams as he entered. David Trimble and Séamus Mallon were visibly angry but John just gave a wry smile.

The man who had the ear of US presidents and leading Irish Americans knew that this was part of the price for peace. I think he may also have known that the allure of acceptance in the halls of power would make it very hard for those who previously advocated violence to ever turn back from the new path.

A great man has died. – Yours, etc,

PAUL ARTHERTON,

Belfast.

Sir, – John Hume was a great and a good man, and all Ireland will mourn his passing. He stands in the pantheon of great Irish democrats with Daniel O’Connell and Charles Stewart Parnell.

When the Troubles in Northern Ireland started in the late 1960s, John Hume embraced the non-violence of the US civil rights movement and used democracy as its agent. Whether elected to Stormont, Strasbourg or Westminster, he always took his seat and argued his case. On this democratic platform he developed constructive engagement on Northern Ireland from Dublin, London and Washington, culminating in the 1998 Belfast Agreement.

Uniquely, through his historical insight he recognised America as a necessary element to the problem, going back more than 100 years, and that it needed to be politically engaged to direct support away from violence and to pressure British governments into providing parity of esteem for Northern nationalists. He did this initially through the “Four Horsemen” and then through successive US administrations from Jimmy Carter to Bill Clinton.

Those who claim he engaged with the provisional movement to find alternatives to conflict are stating a false narrative. John Hume selflessly made himself the bridge on which the republican movement could discontinue their violence and enter the democratic process.

He was the architect of our peace and he succeeded. Now, may he rest in peace. – Yours, etc,

MICHAEL GANNON,

Dublin 14.

Sir, – Unlike most other countries, Ireland does not have a public holiday that marks its recent history.

Perhaps one befitting and appropriate way to remedy this is to officially rename August Bank Holiday Monday as John Hume Day.

This would be an occasion when, similar to Martin Luther King Day in the United States, we salute Mr Hume; someone who devoted his entire life to his people and country. A day to consider how we can all strive to adhere to his ideals of peace, unity and compassion. – Yours, etc,

BREANDÁN Ó MEISCILL,

Greenhills, Dublin 12.

Sir, – John Hume made peace in Northern Ireland his life’s work. This is a man who risked his life in order to help those whose life were constantly at risk. A man whose message “difference is an accident of birth” was the rallying call of the Northern Irish Civil Rights Movement.

At a time when statues are toppling throughout the world, it is appropriate to recognise and remember a titan of civil rights and erect a statue of him in our capital city. We should do this to honour and remember this amazing man who gave so much for us so that future generations will remember him in the same breath as O’Connell and Parnell. – Yours, etc,

COLM BERGIN,

Griffith Avenue,

Dublin 9.

Sir, – We have lost a real Irish hero today with the passing of John Hume.

He never killed anyone for his cause. He never encouraged others to do likewise. He never endorsed violence in any form as the road to peace. He was steadfast in his belief that the road to peace was only through dialogue, breaking down barriers and building bridges.

His strength was his words. That old adage of the word being mightier than the sword surely is apt to put next to the name of John Hume.

Throughout the most toxic period of Irish history, he stood up for peace. He never wavered, although at times he looked spent. He always rallied, ready for another speech or round of negotiations.

If we had honours in Ireland such as a knighthood then surely John Hume would be the ultimate knight, one to command respect at the most exalted and honourable of round tables.

May this man of peace, rest in peace. – Yours, etc,

JIM YATES,

Old Bawn,

Dublin 24.

Sir, – Isn’t it long past the time when Dublin’s Hume Street should have been renamed John Hume Street? – Yours, etc,

JONATHAN HOURIHANE,

Douglas, Cork.

Sir, – Oh that the politicians who traded insults and walked out of the Convention Centre on Thursday night/ Friday morning could reflect on the values John Hume displayed to those whose views differed to his. – Yours, etc,

HELEN NOONAN,

Ranelagh, Dublin 6.

Sir, – One of Ireland’s foremost bridges should be renamed after John Hume, the greatest “bridge builder” we ever had. – Yours, etc,

MITCHEL BARRY,

Estepona, Spain.