Nobel Prize: Shrewd politician who broke taboos

THE HALL of John Hume's weekend retreat in Donegal is virtually papered with scrolls, citations, honorary degrees and doctorates from universities and other institutions in America and all over the world. As one of the most influential and admired Irishmen in the world, he is no stranger to awards and international recognition.

The Nobel Peace Prize is, however, the culmination of a long political career that began at the start of the Troubles and has now, hopefully, seen Northern Ireland through to the start of a whole new era of peace and progress.

On a political level he has headed a party, the largest in northern nationalism, through some appalling times, and has guided it home to become one of the central props of the new arrangements at Stormont.

At another level he has provided, or helped to provide, many of the concepts upon which this new constitutional architecture is founded.

He has stuck always to the principle of non-violence. He has internationalised the conflict, to include the US and other elements in its resolution; and he provided the conceptual framework for the negotiations of recent years. He provided that framework by laying down the idea that cracking the Northern Ireland problem required dealing with three sets of relationships: those between Unionists and nationalists in Northern Ireland; those between Ireland north and south; and those between Britain and Ireland. The new political geography agreed to in the Good Friday Agreement is based on that model.

Most of that work has been based on logic and rational thinking, but when the historians come to look back on his role they will doubtless deal with his pivotal role in the peace process.

There his contribution was based not just on shrewd political analysis but also on intuition and passion.

The peace process, once the most controversial of projects, has now become the essence of politics in Northern Ireland. It was based on overthrowing one of the strongest political orthodoxies in Ireland: that respectable mainstream politicians should not talk to representatives of the men of violence.

The breaking of that taboo was followed by the establishment of a new political principle: that of inclusion. In this new theory stability could be en-sured only by drawing into the mainstream as many elements as possible; the gamble being taken was that doing so would not pollute that mainstream but rather would encourage formerly violent elements to mutate gradually towards democracy.

The championing of these once heretical ideas has taken its toll on Hume, who has spent a full 30 years in a frontline that has been often personally as well as politically dangerous. Opinion polls north and south consistently indicate that he is the most admired political figure in Ireland: the Nobel prize indicates that the international community shares that regard.

DAVID MCKITTRICK

John

Hume

Born 18 January 1937

SDLP MP for Foyle since 1983

SDLP leader since 1979

Married Patricia Hone 1960 (two sons, three daughters)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Care Support Workers

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion, this care company base...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£21000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager - South East & East Anglia

£60500 - £65500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global leading software co...

Recruitment Genius: Junior IT Technician

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you want the opportunity to ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent