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In pictures: The life of 'political titan' John Hume

The former SDLP leader passed away today aged 83.

“THROUGH HIS WORDS, his astute diplomacy and willingness to listen John Hume transformed and remodelled politics in Ireland,” said President Michael D Higgins today, paying tribute to the former SDLP leader who has died aged 83. 

Hume, one of the primary architects of the Good Friday Agreement, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in 1998 and is widely considered the most important Irish political figure of his generation. 

Speaking today, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said it “is no exaggeration to say that each and every one of us now lives in the Ireland Hume imagined – an island at peace and free to decide its own destiny.”

ulster-hume-filer-1971 Hume (then a Stormont MP and Civil Rights leader) addressing a Derry rally in August 1971. Source: PA Images

Hume was born in Derry in 1937 and like many of his generation his Catholic faith was at the core of his upbringing.

He studied for the priesthood in Maynooth but ultimately returned to his native city to become a teacher after graduating with a degree in French and History.

His career began as an organiser. He founded the first Northern Irish Credit Union and became president of the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) while in his twenties.

ulster-mps-hunger-strike Ulster MPs continuing their hunger strike in Downing Street in October 1971, left to right: John Hume, Bernadette Devlin, Frank McManus and Austin Currie. Source: PA Images

Throughout the 1960s Hume became a central figure in the city’s Civil Rights Movement as he and others sought fairness in franchise, jobs and housing.

It was a fraught time in which the movement faced violence from the State and militants from various factions became increasingly active.

Hume was literally at the front of tense marches that marked the period and can be seen in a documentary released last year facing paratroopers in the week before Bloody Sunday.

He did not take part in the march on Bloody Sunday itself, fearing the worst after the events of the previous week and advising against it going ahead

the-troubles-anti-internment-demonstration Hume, wearing a white shirt and addressing an army officer, was one of the two Stormont MPs who accused the army of brutality towards marchers in an anti-internment demonstration in January 1972. Hume is seen speaking to the officer while the demonstration was in progress. Source: PA Images

Hume was first elected as an independent nationalist candidate for the Foyle constituency in 1969 before founding the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) a couple of years later.

As violence exploded in Northern Ireland throughout the 1970s, Hume remained committed to politics and was elected leader of the SDLP and to the European Parliament.

socialist-democratic-labour-party-leaders Source: PA Images

As efforts intensified to find peace in Northern Ireland throughout the 1980s, Hume continued to denounce violence while also beginning dialogue with Gerry Adams, then the leader of Sinn Féin. 

adams-hume-reynolds-shake-hand Taoiseach Albert Reynolds clasps hands with Hume and Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams outside government buildings in 1994. Source: PA Images

In the 199os, Hume was the preeminent voice of nationalism in the north and he participated in various peace efforts that sought to find a resolution to the conflict.

When the Provisional IRA called a ceasefire in 1994 and again in 1996, Sinn Féin were allowed to enter the talks process, as were loyalists who had also called a ceasefire.

The ultimate result of these renewed efforts was the Good Friday Agreement, which was secured following a tortuous process at which Hume was at the centre.

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ulster-trimblehume Hume and Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble speaking to reporters in December 1995. Source: PA Images

It was Hume who took perhaps the largest responsibility in selling the deal, famously appearing with the UUP’s David Trimble on stage with U2′s Bono.

In 1998, he and Trimble were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts in securing peace in Ireland.

nobel-hume-4 Hume and his wife Pat speak to media in October 1998 after he was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Source: PA Images

When the SDLP entered into power-sharing government with the UUP in 1999, Hume left it to his longtime deputy Seamus Mallon to lead the party in Stormont.

He stepped down as leader of his party in 2001 and announced his retirement from politics three years later.

general-election-seamus-mallon Hume and Mallon in May 2001. Mallon predeceased his longtime party colleague by just six months. Source: PA Images

Hume passed away in the early hours of this morning, a family statement said. He is survived by his wife Pat and five children. 

“Ireland is not a romantic dream; it is not a flag; it is 4.5 million people divided into two powerful traditions. The solution will be found not on the basis of victory for either, but on the basis of agreement and a partnership between both. The real division of Ireland is not a line drawn on the map but in the minds and hearts of its people.”

ulster-hume John Hume (1937-2020) Source: PA Images

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