Ireland lost one of its greatest this week, with the passing of John Hume on Monday, and his funeral on Wednesday.
I always held John in the highest regard. And I was not the only one. He was voted “Ireland’s Greatest” in a public poll run by RTE in 2010.
Many tributes were paid to John (and his wife, Pat) over the last week. During the funeral itself, messages were read out from Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama, Bill Clinton and Bono. Many have said that without John’s vision, courage and perseverance that Northern Ireland would not have achieved peace in the way that it did. People have talked over the last few days of the number of lives which John has saved. He has been called Ireland’s Martin Luther King.
He was awarded many richly deserved honours during his life, including:
- Nobel Prize for Peace, 1998
- Martin Luther King Peace Award, 1999
- International Gandhi Peace Prize, 2001
We were on holiday in Moville for a week, leaving for home on the day he died. On the Saturday we went into Derry city and went on the Bogside History Tour, guided by Paul Doherty whose father was killed by British soldiers during Bloody Sunday in 1972.
The tour was excellent, and we all learned a lot over the course of those two hours. Obviously John Hume was mentioned a number of times, including the fact that he had advised against the march on Bloody Sunday because he was afraid of what the soldiers were going to do.
There are so many great stories of what this “shy schoolteacher” (as his wife Pat described him) did and achieved in his life. There is a story here, for example, of how John called around to the families of the victims of Bloody Sunday and gave money to held with funeral expenses.
I am sorry that we were not still in Moville on the evening of his removal to the church. If we had been we could have stood on the roadside to pay our respects to him and his family. But we were home and we had to content ourselves with lighting a candle in the window instead.
Truly were lost Ireland’s Greatest this week.
There are so many photos that I could finish this with, including photos of John with the great and the good. But I think the most fitting is this photo of John and his wife Pat on the day of voting for the Good Friday agreement. Ar dheist Dé go raibh a anam.