John Hume

John Hume

Nobel Peace prize winner John Hume 1998 from Wash. DC. (50184861292).jpg
Hume in 1998
Leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party
In office
6 May 1979 – 6 November 2001
DeputySeamus Mallon
Preceded byGerry Fitt
Succeeded byMark Durkan
Member of the Legislative Assembly
for Foyle
In office
25 June 1998 – 1 December 2000
Preceded byConstituency created
Succeeded byAnnie Courtney
Member of Parliament
for Foyle
In office
9 June 1983 – 11 April 2005[1]
Preceded byConstituency created
Succeeded byMark Durkan
Member of the European Parliament
for Northern Ireland
In office
10 June 1979 – 13 June 2004
Preceded byNew creation
Succeeded byBairbre de Brún
Member of the Northern Ireland Parliament
for Foyle
In office
24 February 1969 – 30 March 1972
Preceded byEddie McAteer
Succeeded byParliament abolished
Personal details
Born(1937-01-18)18 January 1937
Derry, Northern Ireland
Died3 August 2020(2020-08-03) (aged 83)
Derry, Northern Ireland
Political partySocial Democratic and Labour Party
Alma materSt Patrick's College, Maynooth

John Hume KCSG (18 January 1937 – 3 August 2020) was an Irish nationalist politician from Northern Ireland, widely regarded as one of the most important figures in the recent political history of Ireland, as one of the architects of the Northern Ireland peace process.

A native of Derry, he was a founding member of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), and served as its second leader from 1979 to 2001. He also served as a Member of the European Parliament, and a Member of the UK Parliament, as well as a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Hume was co-recipient of the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize with David Trimble, and also received both the Gandhi Peace Prize and the Martin Luther King Award. He is the only person to receive the three major peace awards.

In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI made Hume a Knight Commander of the Papal Order of St. Gregory the Great.[4] He was named "Ireland's Greatest" in a 2010 public poll by Irish national broadcaster RTÉ to find the greatest person in Ireland's history.[5]

Early life and education

Hume was born in 1937 in Derry, the son of Anne (née Doherty) and Samuel Hume.[6] He had a mostly Irish Catholic background; though his great-grandfather was a Presbyterian immigrant into County Donegal from Scotland.[7] Hume was a student at St Columb's College and at St Patrick's College, Maynooth, the leading Catholic seminary in Ireland and a recognised college of the National University of Ireland, where he intended to study for the priesthood. Among his teachers was the future Tomás Cardinal Ó Fiaich, a future Primate of All Ireland.[8]

Hume did not complete his clerical studies but did obtain an M.A. degree in French and history from the college in 1958, and then returned home to his native Derry, where he became a teacher. He was a founding member of the Credit Union movement in the city and was chair of the University for Derry Committee in 1965, an unsuccessful fight to have Northern Ireland's second university established in Derry in the mid-1960s.[9] Hume became the youngest ever President of the Irish League of Credit Unions at age 27. He served in the role from 1964 to 1968. He once said that "all the things I've been doing, it's the thing I'm proudest of because no movement has done more good for the people of Ireland, north and south, than the credit union movement."[10]

Hume became a leading figure in the civil rights movement in the late 1960s along with people such as Hugh Logue.[11] Hume was a prominent figure in the Derry Citizens' Action Committee. The DCAC was set up in the wake of 5 October 1968 march through Derry which had caused much attention to be drawn towards the situation in Northern Ireland. The purpose of the DCAC was to make use of the publicity surrounding recent events to bring to light grievances in Derry that had been suppressed by the Unionist Government for years. The DCAC, unlike Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA), was aimed specifically at a local campaign, improving the situation in Derry for everyone, and maintaining a peaceful stance.[12] The committee also had a Stewards Association that was there to prevent any violence at marches or sit-downs.[13]

Political career

Hume with President Bill Clinton in 1995

Hume became an Independent Nationalist member of the Parliament of Northern Ireland in 1969 at the height of the civil rights campaign. He was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1973, and served as Minister of Commerce in the short-lived power-sharing Executive in 1974.[14] He stood unsuccessfully for the Westminster Parliament for the Londonderry constituency in October 1974, and was elected for Foyle in 1983.[15]

In October 1971 he joined four Westminster MPs in a 48-hour hunger strike to protest at the internment without trial of hundreds of suspected Irish republicans. State papers that have been released under the 30 year rule that an Irish diplomat eight years later in 1979 believed Hume supported the return of internment.[16]

In 1977, Hume challenged a regulation under the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act (Northern Ireland) 1922 which allowed any soldier to disperse an assembly of three or more people. The Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, Lord Lowry, held that the regulation was ultra vires under Section 4 of the Government of Ireland Act 1920 which forbade the Parliament of Northern Ireland to make laws in respect of the army.[17]

A founding member of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), he succeeded Gerry Fitt as its leader in 1979.[18] He also served as one of Northern Ireland's three Members of the European Parliament and served on the faculty of Boston College, from which he received an honorary degree in 1995.[19]

Hume was directly involved in secret talks with the British government and Sinn Féin, in an effort to bring Sinn Féin to the discussion table openly. The talks are speculated[20] to have led directly to the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985.[21]

The vast majority of unionists rejected the agreement and staged a massive and peaceful public rally in Belfast City Centre to demonstrate their distaste. Many Republicans and nationalists also rejected it, as they had seen it as not going far enough.[22] Hume, however, continued dialogue with both governments and Sinn Féin. The "Hume–Adams process" eventually delivered the 1994 IRA ceasefire which ultimately provided the relatively peaceful backdrop against which the Good Friday agreement was brokered.[21]


Hume is credited as being the thinker behind many political developments in Northern Ireland, from the power-sharing Sunningdale Agreement to the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the Belfast Agreement.[citation needed] He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998 alongside the then-leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, David Trimble.[23]

When David Trimble became First Minister, it was expected that Hume would take the role of Deputy First Minister, being the leader of the second largest party, the SDLP. Instead, this role was handed to Séamus Mallon, also of the SDLP. Some political journalists cited a bad working relationship between Hume and Trimble, despite the two men collecting the Nobel Prize together.[24]

On his retirement from the SDLP leadership in 2001, Hume was praised across the political divide, even by his long-time opponent, fellow MP and MEP, the Rev. Ian Paisley.[25][failed verification] Hume held the Tip O'Neill Chair in Peace Studies at the University of Ulster, currently funded by The Ireland Funds.[26]


On 4 February 2004, Hume announced his complete retirement from politics and was succeeded by Mark Durkan as SDLP leader.[27] He did not contest the 2004 European election (when his seat was won by Bairbre de Brún of Sinn Féin),[28] nor did he run in the 2005 general election, in which Mark Durkan retained the Foyle constituency for the SDLP.[29]

Hume and his wife, Pat, continued to be active in promoting European integration, issues around global poverty and the Credit Union movement. He was also a supporter of the Campaign for the Establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, an organisation which campaigns for democratic reformation of the United Nations.[30] In retirement, he continued to speak publicly, including a visit to Seton Hall University in New Jersey in 2005, the first Summer University of Democracy of the Council of Europe (Strasbourg, 10–14 July 2006), and at St Thomas University, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, on 18 July 2007. A building added to the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, was named after him. Hume held the position of Club President of his local football team, Derry City F.C., which he supported all his life.[31] He was a patron of the children's charity Plan International Ireland.[32][33]

During his final years Hume suffered from dementia, which first started displaying symptoms in the late 1990s.[34]


Hume died in the early hours of 3 August 2020 at a nursing home in Derry, at the age of 83.[35] On his death, former Labour leader and Prime Minister Tony Blair said: "John Hume was a political titan; a visionary who refused to believe the future had to be the same as the past."[36] The Dalai Lama said on Twitter: "John Hume's deep conviction in the power of dialogue and negotiations to resolve conflict was unwavering... It was his leadership and his faith in the power of negotiations that enabled the 1998 Good Friday Agreement to be reached. His steady persistence set an example for us all to follow."[37]

See also

Awards and honours

Further reading

  • Denis Haughey and Sean Farren, 'John Hume: Irish Peacemaker,' Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2015 ISBN 978-1846825866
  • John Hume, 'Personal views, politics, peace and reconciliation in Ireland,' Town House, Dublin, 1996. ISBN 978-1570981104
  • John Hume, ‘Derry beyond the walls: social and economic aspects of the growth of Derry,' Ulster Historical foundation, Belfast, 2002. ISBN 978-1903688243
  • Barry White, 'John Hume: a statesman of the troubles,' Blackstaff, Belfast, 1984 ISBN 978-0856403170
  • George Drower, 'John Hume: peacemaker,' Gollancz, 1995 ISBN 978-0575062177
  • George Drower, 'John Hume: man of peace,' Vista, London, 1996 ISBN 978-0575600843
  • Paul Routledge, 'John Hume: a biography,' Harper-Collins, London, 1997 ISBN 978-0006387398
  • Gerard Murray, 'John Hume and the SDLP: impact and survival in Northern Ireland,' Irish Academic Press, Dublin, 1998. ISBN 978-0716526445


  • "Over the years, the barriers of the past—the distrust and prejudices of the past—will be eroded, and a new society will evolve, a new Ireland based on agreement and respect for difference."[52]
  • "I thought that I had a duty to help those that weren't as lucky as me."[53]


  1. ^ "Parliamentary career for Mr John Hume - MPs and Lords - UK Parliament". Retrieved 3 August 2020.
  2. ^ "John Hume, SDLP leader who stood up for peaceful nationalism and won the Nobel Prize – obituary". The Daily Telegraph. 3 August 2020. Retrieved 7 August 2020. He travelled on an Irish passport
  3. ^ "In Pictures: John Hume is laid to rest in his hometown of Derry". The Irish Independent. 7 August 2020. Retrieved 7 August 2020. Patricia Hume speaks to mourners outside St Eugene's Cathedral in Derry ahead of the funeral of her husband John Hume.
  4. ^ "John Hume knighted by Pope Benedict". BBC News. 6 July 2012.
  5. ^ "John Hume proud of 'Ireland's Greatest' award". RTÉ News. 26 October 2010.
  6. ^ Marquis (1990). Who's who in the World. ISBN 9780837911106.
  7. ^ McCrystal, Cal (4 September 1994). "Ceasefire: It's all just coming together for the fixer: John Hume risked all when he met Sinn Fein. Now there's talk of a Nobel Peace Prize. Cal McCrystal reports".
  8. ^ White, Barry (1984). John Hume, Statesman of the Troubles. Blackstaff Press. p. 29. ISBN 9780856403279.
  9. ^ Gerald McSheffrey, Planning Derry: Planning and Politics in Northern Ireland, p. 110.
  10. ^ "John Hume Biography and Interview". American Academy of Achievement. 8 June 2002.
  11. ^ Fitzpatrick, Maurice (8 November 2017). John Hume in America: From Londonderry to DC. Merrion Press. p. 44. ISBN 9781911024989.
  12. ^ "John Hume of DCAC". Raidió Teilifís Éireann. Retrieved 3 August 2020.
  13. ^ Routledge, Paul (1998). John Hume: A Biography. HarperCollinsPublishers. ISBN 9780006387398.
  14. ^ a b "John Hume – Biographical". Nobel Prize. Retrieved 3 August 2020.
  15. ^ "Parliamentary career for Mr John Hume". Parliament of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 3 August 2020.
  16. ^ "Top diplomat thought Hume wanted return of internment". Archived from the original on 20 July 2012.
  17. ^ Robert Lynd Erskine Lowry; ODNB.
  18. ^ "A mover and shaper who has made history". The Irish Times. Dublin. 11 April 1998. Retrieved 3 August 2020.
  19. ^ a b "John Hume: Vision and legacy". Boston College. 27 April 2018. Retrieved 3 August 2020.
  20. ^ Seamus Mallon (20 November 2017). "It was John Hume, not Sinn Féin, who steered Northern Ireland to peace". The Guardian. 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. – John Hume
  21. ^ a b "Obituary: John Hume, SDLP leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner". BBC News. 3 August 2020. Retrieved 3 August 2020.
  22. ^ Jonathan Tonge (2002). Northern Ireland: Conflict and Change.
  23. ^ "The Nobel Peace Prize 1998".
  24. ^ "From process to procession. Calling John Hume. Waiting for a breakthrough".
  25. ^ "Tributes to outgoing SDLP leader". 17 September 2001. Retrieved 3 August 2020.
  26. ^ "Tip O' Neill Chair: John Hume". University of Ulster. Archived from the original on 3 March 2009. Retrieved 8 April 2009.
  27. ^ "Hume to stand down as MP". BBC News. 4 February 2004. Retrieved 3 August 2020.
  28. ^ de Bréadún, Deaglán (5 October 2015). Power Play: The Rise of Modern Sinn Féin. Merrion Press. p. 159. ISBN 9781785370434.
  29. ^ "Parliamentary career for Mark Durkan". Parliament of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 3 August 2020.
  30. ^ "Supporters". Campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly. Retrieved 26 September 2017.
  31. ^ "Who's Who?". Derry City FC. Archived from the original on 16 May 2016. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  32. ^ "Girls offer key to achieving Millennium Goals". Plan Ireland. Archived from the original on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 24 September 2010.
  33. ^ "Our Supporters". Plan Ireland. Retrieved 24 September 2010.
  34. ^ "Wife speaks about John Hume's struggle with dementia". RTÉ News. 23 November 2015. Retrieved 30 May 2016.
  35. ^ "John Hume: Nobel Peace Prize winner dies aged 83". BBC News. 3 August 2020. Retrieved 3 August 2020.
  36. ^ Chappell, Elliot. "SDLP founding member and former leader John Hume dies". LabourList.
  37. ^ Brent, Harry (4 August 2020). "Dalai Lama pays tribute to John Hume, hailing him 'an example to us all'". The Irish Post. Retrieved 5 August 2020.
  38. ^ "Patrons". John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights. Retrieved 3 August 2020.
  39. ^ "Hume awarded honorary degree by the NUI". The Irish Times. 25 June 1996. Archived from the original on 8 February 2019.
  40. ^ "". Archived from the original on 26 May 2009. Retrieved 3 August 2020.
  41. ^ [1][dead link]
  42. ^ "John Hume. Légion d'honneur pour un Nobel". 11 November 1999. Retrieved 26 August 2020.
  43. ^ Irish News, 6 January 1999 Archived 16 May 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  44. ^ "Hume receives Gandhi Peace Prize in India". The Irish Times. Dublin. 1 February 2002. Retrieved 3 August 2020.
  45. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.
  46. ^ "John Hume receives freedom of Derry". RTÉ News. RTÉ. May 2000. Retrieved 5 January 2015.
  47. ^ "'Peace warrior' Hume gets the freedom of Cork". Irish Independent. Retrieved 5 January 2015.
  48. ^ St. Thomas University – Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada Archived 28 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  49. ^ Badge, Peter (3 December 2007). Nobel Faces: A Gallery of Nobel Prize Winners. John Wiley & Sons. p. 142. ISBN 9783527406784.
  50. ^ "John Hume in running to be named 'Ireland's Greatest'". BBC News. 22 October 2010.
  51. ^ "Papal knighthood conferred on John Hume for peace work". The Irish Times. Dublin. 7 July 2012. Retrieved 3 August 2020.
  52. ^ "John Hume Profile". Academy of Achievement. 24 October 2009. Archived from the original on 12 May 2013. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
  53. ^ "John Hume Interview". Academy of Achievement. 8 June 2002. Archived from the original on 29 June 2013. Retrieved 15 August 2013.

External links

Parliament of Northern Ireland
Preceded by
Eddie McAteer
Member of Parliament for Foyle
Parliament abolished
Northern Ireland Assembly (1973)
New assembly Assembly Member for Londonderry
Assembly abolished
Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention
New convention Member for Londonderry
Convention dissolved
European Parliament
New constituency MEP for Northern Ireland
Succeeded by
Bairbre de Brún
Northern Ireland Assembly (1982)
New assembly MPA for Londonderry
Assembly abolished
Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament for Foyle
Succeeded by
Mark Durkan
Northern Ireland Forum
New forum Member for Foyle
Forum dissolved
Northern Ireland Assembly
New assembly MLA for Foyle
Succeeded by
Annie Courtney
Party political offices
New political party Deputy Leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party
Succeeded by
Seamus Mallon
Preceded by
Gerry Fitt
Leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party
Succeeded by
Mark Durkan


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