Former Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) leader John Hume passed away last night at the age of 83.
Hume, who was a founding member of the SDLP and its leader from 1979-2001, is widely recognised as a leading architect of the peace process in Northern Ireland which led to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
The Derry man received an honorary doctorate from Trinity in 2008 in recognition of his contribution to the peace process. Along with former Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) leader David Trimble, Hume was also awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998.
In a statement on Twitter, following Hume’s death, Taoiseach Michéal Martin said: “It is impossible to properly express the scale and significance of John Hume’s life.”
“He was one of the towering figures of Irish public life of the last century. His vision and tenacity saved this country. We owe him and his wife Pat so much. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.”
Trinity also said in a statement on Twitter: “R.I.P John Hume. A once in a generation person, whose influence on the Island of Ireland will never be forgotten.”
Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris thanked Hume in a statement on Twitter, adding that “there are no words that do the contribution John Hume has made to peace on our island justice”
The statement was accompanied by a quote from Hume: “Difference is of the essence of humanity. Difference is an accident of birth and it should therefore never be the source of hatred or conflict. The answer to difference is to respect it. Therein lies the most fundamental principle of peace: respect for diversity.”
Hume was born in Derry in 1937 and became a leading figure in the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association in the run up to the Troubles, and later served as a member of the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly, a member of the United Kingdom House of Commons and a member of the European Parliament.
During this time, Hume was credited, across the political divide, with being a key figure in the ending of the Troubles, and bringing many who were involved in violent struggle on both sides of the conflict, into the political arena and away from violence.
After his retirement from politics Hume and his wife Pat, travelled widely and promoted the cause of peace, reconciliation and multilateralism, with Hume holding the Tip O’Neill chair in Peace Studies in the University of Ulster.
Hume is survived by his wife Pat and their five children.