An eye for an eye will leave everyone blind

From a speech by John Hume, the leader of the SDLP, to the Catholic Institute for International Relations, in Islington, north London

Share

Well, our quarrel in the Northern part of Ireland or in Ireland has been one of the oldest around the world because we have had it for several centuries, going right back to the 17th century and onwards. But I think the last 30 years have been particularly bad. What Martin Luther King called the old doctrine of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. And, as I say, it is easy enough to talk about the need for agreement - getting it isn't quite so easy, however.

Well, our quarrel in the Northern part of Ireland or in Ireland has been one of the oldest around the world because we have had it for several centuries, going right back to the 17th century and onwards. But I think the last 30 years have been particularly bad. What Martin Luther King called the old doctrine of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. And, as I say, it is easy enough to talk about the need for agreement - getting it isn't quite so easy, however.

I was inspired by my experience in Europe. I was elected to the European Parliament in 1979 and I went to Strasbourg. I always tell this story: I went for a walk across the bridge from Strasbourg in France to Kehl in Germany. And I stopped in the middle of the bridge. And I said: "Imagine if I had stood at this bridge 30 years ago in 1949, at the end of the Second World War with 25 million people dead." And if I had said "It's all over, and in a few years time we'll have a united Europe. France will still be French and Germany will still be German, and there would be no victory for anybody," they would have sent me to a psychiatrist. But it happened.

And when you consider the first half of the century that we have just left, it was the worst in the history of the world in terms of conflict. Two World Wars, and the slaughter of millions of people. Yet in the second half of that century we have come together. Therefore it is the duty of everyone who is concerned about conflict, no matter where it is, to study how we in Europe did it. Because the European Union is the greatest example in the history of the world of conflict resolution. And, of course, that is what I did - I studied it.

And if you now look at the principles that go to the heart of of the European Union, you will find those same principles at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement in Belfast. And you will find they are the principles that apply to any area of conflict. The first principle is respect for difference. All conflict is about difference, and fear of difference.

The second principle in Europe was institutions that respected those differences. The Council of Ministers - all countries had a minister - the European Commission, which is the civil service of Europe, and in that commission representatives of all countries are there, too. And look at the European Parliament, which, as you know, has representatives from all member countries.

And then the third principle, which is the most important principle, was working together in their common interests. Leaving the past behind and working together, spilling their sweat and not their blood - together. Because you don't get rid of the divisions and prejudices of centuries in a week or a fortnight. It requires what I have called a healing process. And that healing process is provided by representatives of the people working together, on common ground.

Now have a look at our Agreement in Northern Ireland. Number one, respect for difference. There is to be no victory for either side, the identities of both sections of our people are fully respected and fully protected in the Agreement. The second principle of that Agreement is institutions that respect difference. An Assembly elected by a system of voting, proportional representation, that ensures that all sections of our people are represented in that Assembly.

And the Assembly then elects a government, by proportional representation, so that all sections of our people are also represented in that government. And then we come to the third and most important principle again - the representatives of all sections of our people working together in our common interests.

It the duty of every person who regards themselves as a democrat, to implement the will of the people. And of course if they try to bring this down and they are overthrowing the will of the people, then they are leaving themselves completely weak.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour's Jeremy Corbyn arrives to take part in a Labour party leadership final debate, at the Sage in Gateshead, England, Thursday, Sept. 3  

Jeremy Corbyn is here to stay and the Labour Party is never going to look the same again

Andrew Grice
Serena Williams  

As Stella Creasy and Serena Williams know, a woman's achievements are still judged on appearance

Holly Baxter
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
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