Hume surgery may hit talks

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The Independent Online
JOHN HUME, the Nobel prize winner and Social Democratic and Labour Party leader, was recovering in an Austrian hospital last night after having emergency surgery on a ruptured intestine.

Mr Hume, 62, was attending a conference in the village of Alpbach with his wife when he became ill on Sunday evening. He was taken to the nearby town of Kufstein for treatment. Later, his anaesthesiologist said Mr Hume, who won the Nobel peace prize for his role in the Northern Ireland peace process, was "doing well" in an intensive care unit.

Party colleagues said he had been unwell for a while. The mayor of his home city of Londonderry, councillor Pat Ramsey, said: "His state of health was a matter of concern to John and his wife. We all know the stress he has been under for quite sometime.

"The physical demands are immense and he has been under tremendous stress levels recently. We all would like to see him slow down and enjoy more time with his family."

Mr Hume, an MP since 1983 and who has five children, has been treated for exhaustion at least twice.

The concerns of his immediate family and colleagues will be echoed in the province and on behalf of the entire peace process. It is not known how long he will have to stay in hospital but if Mr Hume is absent for any length of time, the present initiatives might suffer.

He is one of the key politicians involved in the Northern Ireland peace process and it was his initiative to hold talks with the Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams, that eventually led to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. At the time he came under severe pressure from all sides, including members of his own party who were opposed to any direct contact with the republican leadership.

His son John, who lives in Brussels, and his daughter, Dr Aine Abbott, a GP in Londonderry, were on their way to visit him in Austria yesterday.