John Hume

John Hume

Infobox Politician

width = 100px
name=John Hume
successor=Mark Durkan
birth_date=birth date and age|1937|1|18
office=Leader of SDLP
spouse=Patricia Hume
religion=Roman Catholic

John Hume (born 18 January 1937) is a former politician in Northern Ireland, founding member of the Social Democratic and Labour Party and co-recipient of the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize, with David Trimble.

He was the second leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), a position he held from 1979 until 2001. He has served as a Member of the European Parliament and a Member of Parliament for Foyle, as well as a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

He is regarded as one of the most important figures in the political leaders of Northern Ireland and one of the architects of the Northern Ireland peace process there. He is also a recipient of the Gandhi Peace Prize and the Martin Luther King Award, the only recipient of the three major peace awards.


John Hume was born in Derry and was a student at St. Columb's College and at St. Patrick's College, Maynooth, the leading Roman 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 Cardinal Ó Fiaich.

He did not complete his clerical studies, but did obtain a M.A degree from the college, and then returned home to his native city and became a teacher. He was a founding member of the Credit Union movement in the city. Hume became a leading figure in the civil rights movement in the late 1960s, having been prominent in the unsuccessful fight to have Northern Ireland's second university established in Derry in the mid-sixties. After this campaign, John Hume went on to be a prominent figure in the Derry Citizen's Action Committee. The DCAC was set up in the wake of the 5th of October march through Derry which had caused so 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), however, was aimed specifically at a local campaign, improving the situation in Derry for all, and maintaining a peaceful stance. The committee even had a Stewards Association that was there to prevent any violence at marches or sit-downs. As this association was seen at times to be the only force keeping the peace, this greatly undermined the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).

Political career

Hume became an Independent Nationalist member of the Northern Ireland Parliament 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 government in 1974. He was elected to the Westminster Parliament in 1983.

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.

In 1977, Hume challenged a regulation under the Special Powers Act which allowed any soldier to disperse an assembly of three or more people. Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, Lord Lowry held that the regulation was Ultra Vires under Section 4 Government of Ireland Act 1920 which forbade the Parliament of Northern Ireland to make laws in respect of the army. ["Robert Lynd Erskine Lowry; ODNB ]

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

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

However 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 rejected it also, as they had seen it as not going far enough. ["Northern Ireland: Conflict and Change"'Jonathan Tonge (2002)"] 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.


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

On his retirement from the leadership of the SDLP in 2001 he was praised across the political divide, even by his longtime opponent, fellow MP and MEP, the Rev. Ian Paisley, although, ironically, Conor Cruise O'Brien, the iconoclastic Irish writer and former politician was a scathing critic of Hume, for what O'Brien perceived as Hume's anti-Protestant bias, but this is definitely a minority viewpoint.John Hume holds the Tip O’Neill Chair in Peace Studies, currently funded by The Ireland Funds.

During the period when he was conducting a dialogue with Sinn Féin, Hume was heavily criticised by the southern Irish commentator Eoghan Harris. Harris urged the Irish Government, then led by his friend John Bruton, to end all support for Hume's peace efforts. []


On 4 February 2004, Hume announced his complete retirement from politics, and shepherded Mark Durkan as the SDLP leader and successor. He did not contest the 2004 European election (which was won by Bairbre de Brún of Sinn Féin) or the 2005 general election, which Mark Durkan successfully held for the SDLP.

Hume and his wife, Pat, continue to be active in promoting European integration, issues around global poverty and the Credit Union movement. In furtherance of his goals, he continues 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 July - 14 July 2006), and St Thomas University, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada 18 July 2007. A recent building in NUIM [] was named after him.

Hume also holds the position of Club President at his local football team, Derry City F.C., of whom he has been a keen supporter all his life.Fact|date=September 2007


* Honorary D.Litt, St Thomas University, Fredericton, N.B., 2007. []
* Honorary LL.D., Boston College, 1995. One of the 44 honorary doctorates Hume has been awarded.
* Four Freedoms, Freedom of Speech Medal Recipient, 1996. []
* Nobel Prize for Peace (co-recipient), 1998.
* Martin Luther King Peace Award, 1999 []
* International Gandhi Peace Prize, 2001.
* Freedom of the City of Cork, 2004. [Details available [ here.] ]

Further reading

*John Hume, 'Personal views, politics, peace and reconciliation in Ireland,' Town House, Dublin, 1996.
*John Hume, ‘Derry beyond the walls: social and economic aspects of the growth of Derry,' Ulster Historical foundation, Belfast, 2002.
*Barry White, 'John Hume: a statesman of the troubles,' Blackstaff, Belfast, 1984
*George Drower, 'John Hume: peacemaker,' Gollancz, 1995
*George Drower, 'John Hume: man of peace,' Vista, London, 1996
*Paul Routledge, 'John Hume: a biography,' Harper-Collins, London, 1997
*Gerard Murray, 'John Hume and the SDLP: impact and survival in Northern Ireland,' Irish Academic Press, Dublin, 1998.


* "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."
* "I thought that I had a duty to help those that weren't as lucky as me."

External links

* His Nobel Lecture []
* His Address to the College Historical Society of Trinity College Dublin, on Northern Ireland []
* Tip O’Neill Chair in Peace Studies at the University of Ulster []
* [ other Nobel winners from Ireland]


NAME=John Hume
SHORT DESCRIPTION=Irish politician
DATE OF BIRTH=18 January 1937
PLACE OF BIRTH=Derry City, Northern Ireland

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