Tributes paid to Pat Hume, wife of ‘architect of peace’ in Northern Ireland

83-year-old made ‘extraordinary contribution to life on this island and beyond’, Irish president says

Andy Gregory
Friday 03 September 2021 01:53
<p>Tributes have been paid following the death of Pat Hume</p>

Tributes have been paid following the death of Pat Hume

The death of Pat Hume, the widow of former SDLP leader and Nobel Peace Prize-winner John Hume, has sparked widespread tributes from political figures including Hillary Clinton and Michael D Higgins.

Hume passed away at the age of 83 following a short illness on Thursday, just over a year after the death of her husband.

She was hailed a “colossus” in Irish history, having worked alongside John from the beginning of the civil rights movement in Londonderry in the 1960s, through the Troubles until after the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998.

She was awarded the Irish Red Cross Lifetime Achievement award in 2018 and a foundation honouring the couple’s peace and reconciliation work was launched last year.

Her family said Hume “died as she lived – surrounded by family, peacefully and generous to the end”.

Ms Clinton, who walked across Derry’s Peace Bridge with the Humes shortly after the IRA ceasefires while visiting the city as America’s first lady with her husband Bill in 1995, sent her condolences to the family.

“Pat Hume was a gracious, determined force behind the achievement of peace in Ireland,” Ms Clinton said.

“She and her husband John both made the world a better place and set an example for us all. Sending my condolences to her family.”

Irish president Michael D Higgins said Pat Hume had made an “extraordinary contribution to life on this island and beyond”.

He added: “The life of Pat Hume was one of total commitment to community, to the possibilities of peace, to the measures of non-violence that were necessary to assert, vindicate and achieve the results of civil rights.

“While her support of the work of her late husband and Nobel Prize recipient, John Hume, was an exercise in solidarity, a partnership in courage, endurance and fortitude, her personal contribution was unique, immense and important in its own right.

Pat and John Hume meet former US president Bill Clinton in Derry in 2010

“Pat’s personal contribution as teacher, mother, in conditions of conflict, political adviser, constituency secretary and consoler of the victims of oppression from so many sources, was extraordinary in every sense.”

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said that she had lived a “unique life”.

“My deepest sympathies to the Hume family on the death of Pat Hume,” he said. “A unique life well-lived and no one who met John left the conversation without knowing Pat. A lovely lady.”

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald, said she had been left “deeply saddened” by the news.

She added: “I extend my deepest condolences to her family and friends. She will be sadly missed by her children, extended family and friends, colleagues and the people of Derry.”

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long said Mrs Hume’s dedication to peace “was total”, adding: “Very sorry to hear Pat Hume has passed away – an absolute lady, warm & friendly, always encouraging. Her dedication to peace was total as was her dedication to John esp. in his latter years.”

Marrying in 1960 after meeting at a dance, the couple would raise five children together. Working alongside her husband for decades, Pat was often credited as running operations on the ground and manning her husband’s constituency office in Foyle.

Pat Hume and Derry City mayor John Boyle standing with US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Derry’s Peace Bridge in 2019

According toThe Irish Independent, she is “recalled as the person who held the Hume family together through the darkest days of violence, and someone who was at times left alone to face down intimidation and threats while her husband travelled the world seeking support for peace in Northern Ireland”.

The paper quoted John Hume’s long-time political colleague Brid Rodgers as saying: “Pat was a very astute political thinker and he depended on her for advice – she was always there. It was a great partnership, he always knew Pat would tell him exactly what she thought.”

In recent years, she was a carer for her husband during his battle with dementia.

Bishop of Derry, Donal McKeown, said Pat Hume was “small in stature, but a colossus” in Irish history, adding: “She was the rock behind the man who rightly has been credited as the architect of our current peace.

“In the course of that long and challenging journey towards the peace we enjoy today Pat was brave, courageous and uncompromising, yet she was always gentle and profound in respect for other people and their opinions.”

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