SDLP founding member and former leader John Hume dies

Founding member and former leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party John Hume has died in a nursing home in Londonderry at the age of 83.

The former MP who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the peace process in Northern Ireland, which eventually led to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, has passed away after suffering several years of ill health.

Becoming an independent nationalist member of the parliament of Northern Ireland in 1969, Hume was elected to Westminster as the MP for Foyle in 1983 and retired from politics in 2004.

Hume came to prominence during the civil rights movement in his native Derry. The former SDLP leader was criticised for holding secret talks with Irish republican politician and former president of Sinn Féin Gerry Adams.

The former Foyle MP is credited with getting Sinn Fein around the table and being pivotal to delivering the GFA. In 1998, John Hume and his Unionist counterpart David Trimble were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.

In 2010, the former MP was voted as “Ireland’s greatest” in a public poll and was named as a Knight Commander of the Papal Order of St Gregory the Great by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012.

Commenting on his death, Labour leader Keir Starmer said: “It is deeply saddening to hear of the death of John Hume. Life across the island of Ireland is peaceful and more prosperous today because of his courage, vision and determination.

“He guided away from violence and towards justice, tolerance and democracy. He takes his rightful place in the pantheon of leaders whose legacy is one of creating a better world for the next generation. My thoughts, and those of the labour movement, are with Pat, John, Mo and the Hume family.”

Former Labour leader and Prime Minister Tony Blair said: “John Hume was a political titan; a visionary who refused to believe the future had to be the same as the past.”

Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Louise Haigh tweeted: “John Hume was a political giant. Endlessly he gathered the strength and bravery to make peace happen.

“It is deeply saddening to hear of the death of John Hume. Life across the island of Ireland is peaceful and more prosperous today because of his courage, vision and determination. He guided away from violence and towards justice, tolerance and democracy.”

Labour leader Keir Starmer tweeted: “He dreamt in his Nobel Peace Prize of a time ‘where our children can look to the future with a smile of hope’. May this and the shared future he imagined be his legacy.

“John Hume takes his rightful place in the pantheon of leaders whose legacy is of creating a better world for the next generation. My thoughts, and those of all in the labour movement, are with Pat, John, Mo and the Hume family.”

Shadow minister for tourism and heritage Alex Sobel remarked: “A great man. I was in Belfast on 10th April 1998 and you could feel the change in the air. John Hulme was a huge part of that. Rest in Power John.”

Labour backbenchers also joined with tributes to the former MP. Barbara Keeley described him as a “great man”, while Ruth Jones tweeted: “Thoughts and prayers with the Hume family and all those whose lives John Hume touched and inspired.”

In a statement, his family said: “John was a husband, a father, a grandfather, a great grandfather and a brother. He was very much loved, and his loss will be deeply felt by all his extended family.”

More from LabourList