Former leader of the SDLP, John Hume, has died, his family have announced in a statement.
He was 83 years old, and passed away after a short illness. He had lived with dementia for several years and was rarely seen in public in recent years.
Hume led the SDLP from 1979 to 2001, and won the Nobel peace prize alongside Lord David Trimble for their work on the Belfast Agreement signed on Good Friday, 1998.
Before entering politics, Hume served as President of the Irish League of Credit unions, having founded Derry Credit Union in his youth.
He was elected to the Stormont Parliament in 1969, and to the House of Commons for the Foyle constituency in 1983. He held the seat until 2005. He served concurrently as MEP for Northern Ireland from 1979 until 2004, where he is said to have forged a close and cordial working relationship with Ian Paisley, then leader of the DUP, and the most hard-line voice of mainstream unionism at the time.
Throughout his career, he was involved in talks with the British Government to try and bring about a political resolution to the violence plaguing Northern Ireland. He had a hand in the Anglo-Irish agreement of 1985, and, despite its rejection by Unionism, he continued to work throughout the 1980s and early 1990s for all-party talks to end the conflict.
The so-called “Hume-Adams process”, whereby Hume acted as a mediator between the IRA and the two Governments, eventually led to the agreement on Good Friday, which formed the basis for the disarmament of the IRA, the withdrawal of British troops, and the sustained peace in Northern Ireland.
Paying tribute this morning, the Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, said that Hume was a “towering figure”:
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.
— Micheál Martin (@MichealMartinTD) August 3, 2020
Northern Irish first Minister, Arlene Foster, also paid tribute:
Sincere condolences to Pat & the wider Hume family. A giant in Irish nationalism, John left his unique mark in the House of Commons, Brussels & Washington. In our darkest days he recognised that violence was the wrong path & worked steadfastly to promote democratic politics. pic.twitter.com/Ctkdfxa4Au
— Arlene Foster #We’llMeetAgain (@DUPleader) August 3, 2020
May he rest in peace.