Politics

John Hume: SDLP tribute as body returns to Derry


The coffin of John Hume is brought into St Eugene's Cathedral in LondonderryImage copyright
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The coffin of John Hume is brought into St Eugene’s Cathedral in Londonderry

John Hume’s body has been brought to St Eugene’s Cathedral in Londonderry, ahead of his funeral on Wednesday.

SDLP members formed a guard of honour, holding candles in tribute to their former leader who died on Monday.

His family asked mourners to refrain from lining the streets of his native city on Tuesday evening.

Instead, they asked people to light a “candle for peace” at their homes due to the restrictions in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Tributes have continued to pour in from presidents and prime ministers for the former SDLP leader.

On Tuesday evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that a candle had been lit in Downing Street, saying it was a “symbol” of the peace that Mr Hume “was so instrumental in securing”.

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People lit candles in memory of Mr Hume and placed them in their windows

The Irish government is flying national flags at half mast to honour Mr Hume.

Ireland’s Foreign Ministry said he was “rightly remembered across the world today” as one of Ireland’s and Europe’s greatest political leaders and peacemakers.

In a statement, the Hume family said the “heartfelt and sincere” condolences they had received since announcing his death had been “immensely comforting”.

They said his remains would leave his home in Moville, County Donegal, on Tuesday evening and return to St Eugene’s Cathedral in Derry.

“John loved the people of Derry and Donegal,” they said.

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SDLP members formed a guard of honour to welcome John Hume back to Derry

“We know he would have prioritised public health and the safety and health of our communities. We’re asking people to follow that guidance, please do not put yourself or others at risk.

“Instead we would ask that people light a candle for peace at 9pm in their homes or at their door.”

Mr Hume’s funeral Mass will take place in the cathedral at 11:30 BST on Wednesday, and will be streamed live on the BBC News NI website.

The priest who is due to deliver the funeral homily has echoed the family’s call for mourners to pay their respects from home rather than attend mass gatherings during the pandemic.

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Current SDLP leader Colum Eastwood was among the mourners on Tuesday evening

“We live in extraordinary times and, sadly, all those people all over the island of Ireland and beyond cannot attend this evening,” Fr Paul Farren said.

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People have been signing a book of condolence for John Hume in Derry’s Guildhall

“We have to be careful, prudent and safe and do what’s wise.

“We ask people at home to pray, to light a candle – we will have a celebration of light and our intention is for peace.”

The Mayor of Derry, Brian Tierney, who represents the SDLP, also lit a candle at the city’s Guildhall building on Tuesday evening as Mr Hume’s body returned to his home city.

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A nun wearing PPE signs the book of condolence at Derry’s Guildhall

The tributes to Mr Hume, who was one of the key architects of the Northern Ireland peace process, reflected his international reputation.

Former US President Bill Clinton remembered his persistence and unshakeable commitment to non-violence, while former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, who was in office when the Good Friday Agreement was signed, described him as a political titan.

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John Hume with his wife Pat in 1979

The taoiseach (Irish PM) at the time of the deal, Bertie Ahern, recalled the former SDLP leader as a force for stability amid days of violence and chaos.

‘Enormous legacy’

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson described Mr Hume as a “political giant”, while the current Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he was a “great hero and a true peacemaker”.

On Monday, the Irish government lowered its flag to half mast outside its Dublin headquarters and also outside Iveagh House which houses the Department of Foreign Affairs to “mark the passing of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate John Hume”.

The department tweeted that he was “rightly remembered across the world today as one of Ireland’s and Europe’s greatest political leaders and peacemakers”.

The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Hazel Chu, has opened a book of condolence for mourners in Dublin to pay their respects to Mr Hume.

Closer to home, a book of condolence was opened at Derry’s Guildhall on Monday.

Signing the book, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the island had lost its most significant political figure of the 20th Century.

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A mural in Derry’s Bogside puts John Hume alongside Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Teresa, and Nelson Mandela

Mr Eastwood compared his predecessor to the famous US civil rights leader Martin Luther King.

“John Hume was our Martin Luther King,” he said.

“He was the greatest Irishman ever and he achieved something that no-one could ever achieve before him: he ended the Anglo-Irish conflict, the conflict that had gone on for 800 years, and he gave my generation the opportunity to achieve our political goals peacefully and democratically, and that is an enormous legacy.”

The neighbouring district of Fermanagh and Omagh Council has also opened an online book of condolence on its website.

The former Foyle MP and MEP for Northern Ireland, who had dementia and in recent years had lived in a care home in Londonderry, died in the early hours of Monday morning.

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A minute’s silence was held before the start of the match in Southampton on Tuesday

Meanwhile, cricketers from the Irish and English teams wore black armbands in memory of Mr Hume during Tuesday’s one-day international in Southampton.

A minute’s silence was held before the start of the match.

Mr Hume was a cricket fan and in his younger days was a left-arm spin bowler.

Ross McCollum, chair of Cricket Ireland, said the former SDLP leader “will no doubt be remembered as a giant of his time, and his legacy will extend for many generations to come”.



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