Former SDLP leader John Hume dies aged 83

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by Q Radio News

The former SDLP leader and Nobel Prize winner John Hume has died at the age of 83. 

He had suffered from dementia and was cared for in the Owen Mor nursing home in Derry/Londonderry. 

The former Foyle MP was awarded the Nobel peace prize for efforts in forging the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland.

He was a prominent figure during the Civil Rights Movement in 1968 and became one of the founding members of the Social Democratic Party (SDLP) in 1970. 

In a statement, Mr Hume's family said he passed away peacefully in the early hours of the morning after a short illness. 

"We would like to extend our deepest and heartfelt thanks to the care and nursing staff of Owen Mor nursing home in Derry.

"The care they have shown John in the last months of his life has been exceptional. As a family, we are unfailingly inspired by the professionalism, compassion, and love they have shown to John and all those under their care.

"We can never adequately show them our thanks for looking after John at a time when we could not.  The family drew great comfort in being with John again in the last days of his life.

"We would like also to extend our gratitude to the people of Derry and Moville/Greencastle, who have looked after John and shown us so much kindness as his dementia has progressed. Celebrating community in all its diversity went to the heart of John’s political ethos and we are very appreciative that our communities supported, respected and protected John. 

"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." 

The family confirmed John's funeral will be arranged according to the current government regulations with very strict rules on numbers, 

(Founding members of the SDLP and Civil Rights Campaigners John Hume (left) and Ivan Cooper (right))

Meanwhile, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said Mr Hume was Ireland's most significant and consequential political figure.

"It is no exaggeration to say that each and every one of us now lives in the Ireland Hume imagined - an island at peace and free to decide its own destiny," he said.

"This is an historic moment on this island, but most of all it is a moment of deep, deep sadness. In the days ahead, Ireland will be united in mourning his loss.

"However, amidst that national mourning, it is equally true that the marking of John's death also opens up a space to reflect on, and celebrate, the magnitude of his life.

"As part of that reflection of John's work, never has the beatitude rung truer - blessed be the peacemakers.

"The life of John Hume will forever be a blessing upon this island since Ireland is now blessed by the peace he gifted to us all. It is the greatest legacy a political leader can bestow upon his country."

Politicians from across the political divide have been paying tribute to Mr Hume following his passing. 

First Minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster described him as a "giant in Irish nationalism" and said he "left his unique mark in the House of Commons, Brussels and Washington". 

Deputy First Minister and Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O'Neill says he was a "huge political figure" who took risks that "helped bring about peace". 

The Taoiseach Michael Martin said “John Hume was a great hero and a true peace maker" 

Former US President, Bill Clinton also paid the following tribute to John Hume.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson took to social media 

The PM added, "For decades he sought resolution of the Troubles in Northern Ireland through dialogue and agreement. Without John Hume there would have been no Belfast or Good Friday Agreement.

"He led the SDLP with great distinction for more than twenty years, driven by a strong sense of social justice, and continued to be a revered figure for many throughout these islands and further afield.

"With his passing we have lost a great man who did so much to help bring an end to the Troubles and build a better future for all.

"His vision paved the way for the stability, positivity and dynamism of the Northern Ireland of today, and his passing is a powerful reminder of how far Northern Ireland has come. My sincerest condolences go to his devoted wife, Pat, and the rest of the Hume family at this difficult time."

Meanwhile, Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney also paid tribute to him and thanked him for his work in helping to obtain peace here. 

Former Ulster Unionist leader Lord Trimble, who was jointly awarded the Nobel peace prize along with Mr Hume, said he left an enduring legacy.

"He was a major contributor to politics in Northern Ireland and particularly to the process that gave us an agreement that we are still working our way through," he said.

"That's hugely important and that's something that he will be remembered for in years to come."

Former UK prime minister Sir John Major praised Mr Hume's efforts to win peace.

"Few others invested such time and energy to this search and few sought to change entrenched attitudes with such fierce determination," he said.

"Those whose communities have been transformed into peaceful neighbourhoods may wish to pay tribute to one of the most fervent warriors for peace.

"He has earned himself an honoured place in Irish history."

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