DUBLIN — Former Northern Ireland politician and Nobel laureate John Hume, who helped broker a peace deal in the region, has died at the age of 83.
In a statement released early on Monday, Hume’s family said they were “deeply saddened to announce that John passed away peacefully in the early hours of the morning after a short illness”
Hume, who co-founded the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), shared the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize with David Trimble, who was head of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP).
Leaders of the two biggest parties in the north of Ireland at the time, the men were awarded for their efforts to end three decades of violence in Northern Ireland via the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement.
Their partnership crossed the region’s ethnic and sectarian divide, with Hume’s SDLP campaigning for the non-violent unification of with rest of Ireland and the UUP seeking to keep the region under British rule.
Speaking on RTE, Ireland’s public broadcaster, Trimble – who was the first head of the regional administration set up in Belfast after the 1998 agreement – said that though Hume’s illness was well-known, his passing came “with a bit of a shock.”
Mark Durkan, a confidant of Hume’s who succeeded him as SDLP leader, described the peace agreement as being based on Hume’s “blueprint.”
Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin described Hume as “a great hero and peacemaker” while British counterpart Boris Johnson said Hume “stood proudly in the tradition that was totally opposed to violence.”
Former British prime minister Tony Blair, a negotiator of the Good Friday Agreement with Hume, described his contribution to peace as “epic.”
Arlene Foster, the current head of Northern Ireland’s regional government, said Hume was “a giant in Irish nationalism” who left a “unique mark in the House of Commons, Brussels & Washington.”
Gerry Adams, the former leader of Sinn Féin, the political party linked to the Irish Republican Army (IRA), said that Hume played a key role in persuading armed factions to agree to ceasefires.
“John’s agreement to examine the potential of building an alternative to conflict was the mark of a political leader genuinely prepared to look at the bigger picture,” Adams said.
Hume had in recent years been in a nursing home on the outskirts of his home town – Northern Ireland’s second biggest city Londonderry, more commonly known as Derry.
Current SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said: “Derry, and the whole island, is in mourning today following the passing of our friend, leader and greatest peacemaker.”
Catholic Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown, who will preside over Hume’s funeral on Wednesday, said the late leader was “firmly rooted in his local city.”Show