Remembering John Hume
Sir, – Back in 1970 my class in the Brow O’ The Hill Christian Brothers in Derry’s Bogside was doing a project on the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA). I took it upon myself to go to John Hume’s house unannounced and ask him for a contribution to the project in question.
Here was this 11-year-old boy sitting with the leader of the NICRA in his sitting-room, chatting about civil rights over a cup of tea.
He talked to me about the six demands of the organisation: one man, one vote; a fair drawing of electoral boundaries; freedom of speech and assembly; repeal of the Special Powers Act; and a fair allocation of jobs and social housing. He took the time to explain, one on one, with an insignificant school boy what was wrong in our society and how it could be fixed.
He would go on to explain to presidents and world leaders in that same honest and confident tone as he did to me that afternoon in Derry. He was one of our own, but different in an amazing way. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Ireland has lost a great statesman and as a country we grieve now with his wife, Pat, and all the family. Nationally and internationally his political influence and efforts have structured a new Ireland. He also saw that local social and economic ways were needed to progress Ireland.
John Hume was a stalwart in his working with the credit union movement for social inclusion and non-discrimination for all the people on the island of Ireland.
He understood the benefit for all by communities coming together to save and lend to each other, leading to economic development for the entire country. His legacy lives on in the co-operation and growth of credit unions throughout Ireland today. – Yours, etc,
MÁIRÉAD MAC QUAILE,
Sir, – Never was the term “Rest in Peace” so fitting. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I was greatly privileged in helping John Hume in a most unusual way. While in Baggot Street, many years ago (possibly the 1980s), I saw John, walking in a hurry, and looking concerned. I approached him and asked if he needed a hand. He said he was in a hurry to get to the US embassy.
My car was parked nearby and I offered him a lift. He didn’t hesitate in taking up the offer and I duly him outside the embassy, where he thanked me as he continued hurrying in.
An amazing man: may he rest in well-deserved peace. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – My most vivid memory of John Hume is, as a teenager, observing my late mother transfixed to the television at our home in Belfast, listening intently to what the great man had to say. At the time, he was, in many ways, an unintended product of a reformed educational system in Northern Ireland and became, in a short time, the “acceptable/articulate face of nationalism”.
John Hume dissected in words, where there was absolutely no room for ambiguity, the evils of sectarianism and the waste of lives associated with violence. His greatness lay in the very words he spoke. – Yours, etc,
MARTIN MC DONALD,
Sir, – John Hume: good man, great man, statesman. – Yours, etc,
Mohill, Co Leitrim.
Sir, – It is with great sadness that the Irish national charity, The Friends of Bethlehem University in Ireland learnt of the death of one of its founder members and a current member of its board of trustees, John Hume.
The president of Bethlehem University, Brother Peter Bray, who welcomed him warmly to our board in Ireland many years ago, wrote of him this week:
“However, we know that while there is suffering and death here, we believe that Jesus has walked through the valley of darkness and is standing in solidarity with us now as we suffer the loss of John . . .We will, of course, remember him in our prayers. ”
Dr JOHN KELLY,
University College Dublin.
Sir, – After the sad passing of John Hume, can I suggest we now have a fitting occupant for all those empty plinths we now seem to have around the place? – Yours, etc,
NIALL Ó CLÉIRIGH,
Baile Átha Cliath 6.
Sir, – As a UK civil servant I was seconded to the European Commission in Brussels in the late 1980s where my line manager was an Irishman.
The Irish people working in the various European institutions tended to socialise together and my manager told me that John Hume was a regular guest at such gatherings and was often the last to leave the party.
He told me about the sinking feeling he got when, later in the evening, Mr Hume would ask “Do you mind if I sing?”. He said that while Mr Hume had a great voice, once he started he would not stop.
A great voice indeed. – Yours, etc,
A chara, – The iconic picture and footage of taoiseach Albert Reynolds, John Hume and Gerry Adams sharing a handshake in 1994 has been all over the papers.
Rest in peace John Hume, a great leader and diplomat.
In the wake of his death I am reminded of other great leaders who brought about peace through dialogue, among them the late Albert Reynolds. It is my belief, however incorrect that may be, that if Micheál Martin was taoiseach in 1994 when this picture was taken we would not have peace now. I think Mr Martin and Fianna Fáil need to re-evaluate the need for dialogue and discussion and importance of breaking down barriers. If they do this we may get a government that reflects the desires of the electorate. – Is mise,
Sir, – Your Editorial (August 4th) rightly compares the late John Hume to Martin Luther King and Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Mansergh states that Hume will be counted as a major figure in the constitutionalist nationalist tradition that began with Daniel O’Connell (Opinion, August 4th).
As we debate the removal of statues from public places and the appropriate way to commemorate our shared, complex and troubled history, I propose we consider erecting a statue of John Hume in the main street of our capital city, alongside Ireland’s other great liberator and pacifist, Daniel O’ Connell.
On the base of this statue, Hume’s words should be etched, as a constant reminder for generations to come: “Difference is the essence of humanity. Difference is an accident of birth, and it should therefore never be the source of conflict or hate.
“The answer to difference is to respect it. Therein lies a most fundamental principle of peace: respect for diversity”.
John Hume represents a living history that we will always want to remember and that we will always be truly proud of. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Of John Hume, Seamus Heaney said it all: “. . . to know there is one among us who never swerved from all his instincts told him was right action, who stood his ground in the indicative”. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – You list John Hume along with three others as being among the greatest men Ireland has produced (Seán Donlon, John Hume supplement, August 4th). O’Connell, with all his flaws surely qualifies, as does Parnell, but Redmond? The latter, with his misguided advice to Irishmen “to go where the firing line extends” induced thousands to go to their deaths on behalf of the British empire. A great Irishman? I think not!
Actually, I think Hume stands alone in the Pantheon. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – “We can’t keep writing elegies”, Seamus Heaney said in response to the ongoing deaths from violence in Northern Ireland in the mid 1980s. He took a different tack in dealing with the monster by translating Beowulf, a story of epic proportions.
John Hume is the hero in the epic story of how peace came to this island after 800 years. Some lines from Heaney’s translation might act as elegy and legacy: “A light appeared and the place brightened, the way the sky does when heaven’s candle is shining clearly”. Bless his dear heart. – Yours, etc,
A chara, – John Hume traded politics for peace, while Gerry Adams traded acts of violence for political success.
Keep on marching. – Is mise,
Sir, – In recent days we have been remembering the huge role that John Hume played in bringing peace to our island.
The scene of Mr Hume publicly shaking hands with Gerry Adams for the first time in 1994 as Albert Reynolds looked on is particularly memorable.
Perhaps one fitting tribute would be to rename Government Buildings, where the handshake took place, as Hume House.
As the location of the Taoiseach’s Office and the Cabinet room, these buildings have long been in need of a name to suit their significance. John Hume certainly merits consideration. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – In this era when statues are being removed at a whim because of perceived historical embarrassment, let us reverse the trend by erecting one to the greatest and most successful Irishman ever, John Hume. – Yours, etc,
Cabinteely, Dublin 18.
Sir, – There are thousands of people going about their daily business today who would not be alive but for John Hume – thousands of hearts that were not broken, thousands of graves that did not need to be dug. What more on the name of love? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – John Hume, a brave man who had a vision for Ireland and pursued it irrespective of what people thought about him. A true leader. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – John Hume’s message of non-violence in the pursuit of peace in an agreed Ireland based on respect for difference and diversity was one which he articulated relentlessly over decades.
No less relentless was the vilification and abuse he suffered at the hands of others, in particular sections of the Republic’s print media for his approach to help end years of death and destruction on this island.
A lesser man than the one who wept so publicly at the graveside of a victim of the Greysteel massacre in 1993 would have despaired and capitulated.
We should be grateful that one possessed of such fortitude, tenacity, intelligence and political savvy endured to see through the signing of the Belfast Agreement in 1998. John Hume was a giant of 20th century Irish politics. This country owes him an enormous debt of gratitude. – Yours, etc,