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Former SDLP leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner John Hume dies aged 83

The Irish peace icon passed away after a long struggle with dementia.

John Hume founded the SDLP and led the party for 22 years.
John Hume founded the SDLP and led the party for 22 years.
Image: RollingNews.ie

POLITICIAN AND IRISH peace icon John Hume has died aged 83.

The SDLP founder, who spent his life and career campaigning for civil rights, passed away today after years of suffering from dementia.

His death was confirmed by his family this morning. 

“We are deeply saddened to announce that John passed away peacefully in the early hours of the morning after a short illness,” a family statement said. 

“We would like to extend our deepest and heartfelt thanks to the care and nursing staff of Owen Mor nursing home in Derry.

“The care they have shown John in the last months of his life has been exceptional. As a family, we are unfailingly inspired by the professionalism, compassion, and love they have shown to John and all those under their care.

“We can never adequately show them our thanks for looking after John at a time when we could not.  The family drew great comfort in being with John again in the last days of his life,” the statement continued. 

“We would like also to extend our gratitude to the people of Derry and Moville/Greencastle, who have looked after John and shown us so much kindness as his dementia has progressed.

“Celebrating community in all its diversity went to the heart of John’s political ethos and we are very appreciative that our communities supported, respected and protected John. 

“John was a husband, a father, a grandfather, a great grandfather and a brother. He was very much loved, and his loss will be deeply felt by all his extended family.”

The family said Hume’s funeral will be arranged according to the current government regulations with very strict rules on numbers.

“We realise this will mean that many will be unable to join us and we will arrange a memorial service and a celebration of his life in due course,” the family said. 

“Above all, we know that John would have prioritised public health, and the safety and health of our communities.  We are grateful for your condolences and support, and we appreciate that you will respect the family’s right to privacy at this time of great loss. 

It seems particularly apt for these strange and fearful days to remember the phrase that gave hope to John and so many of us through dark times: we shall overcome.

The Derry native served as an elected representative in the city for 36 years was and one of the foremost figures advocating non-violence throughout decades of violence in Northern Ireland.

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Hume was one of the primary architects of the Good Friday Agreement and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in 1998.

Hume was the preeminent voice of nationalism in the north in the years before the agreement and saw his party join the first power-sharing government after it.

His work in advocating for fairness saw him lead the Civil Rights Movement in Derry in the 1960s and continued as he led the SDLP from 1979 until 2001.

Hume retreated from public life in the mid 2000s with his wife of 58 years Pat speaking about his struggle with dementia.

“For a man who travelled the world non-stop, he doesn’t like being away from home now. He loves Derry,” Pat told RTE’s Miriam O’Callaghan in 2015.

As well as his wife Pat, Hume is survived by five children.

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