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John Hume: Nobel Peace Prize winner dies aged 83

John Hume

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John Hume played a crucial role in helping to broker the IRA ceasefire of 1994

The Nobel Peace Prize winner and prominent Northern Ireland politician John Hume has died aged 83.

He died in a Londonderry nursing home following a long period of illness.

One of the highest-profile politicians in Northern Ireland for more than 30 years, he helped create the climate that brought an end to the Troubles.

He was one of the founding members of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) in 1970 and went on to lead the party from 1979 until 2001.

Mr Hume played a major role in the peace talks which led to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

The former SDLP leader was widely admired for his steadfast commitment to peaceful, democratic politics during three decades of violence in Northern Ireland.

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Press Association

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David Trimble; U2 singer Bono, and John Hume campaigning for the peace deal in 1998

Tributes have been paid across the board by political leaders past and present, including former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who was in office when the peace deal was signed.

“John Hume was a political titan; a visionary who refused to believe the future had to be the same as the past,” Mr Blair said.

“His contribution to peace in Northern Ireland was epic and he will rightly be remembered for it.

“He was insistent it was possible, tireless in pursuit of it and endlessly creative in seeking ways of making it happen.”

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Media captionJohn Hume became leader of the SDLP in 1979, a post which he relinquished in November 2001

Mr Hume has been hailed as a “great hero and a true peacemaker” by current Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Micheál Martin.

“During the darkest days of paramilitary terrorism and sectarian strife, he kept hope alive. And with patience, resilience and unswerving commitment, he triumphed and delivered a victory for peace,” Mr Martin said.

Following the 1998 peace deal, Mr Hume was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, along with the then leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, David Trimble.

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John Hume and David Trimble were presented with doves of peace sculptures

Lord Trimble also acknowledged Mr Hume’s commitment to peace efforts in Northern Ireland.

“There is absolutely no doubt he was a major figure in the process,” he said.

“Right from the outset of the Troubles, John was urging people to stick to their objective peacefully and was constantly critical of those who did not realise the importance of peace.

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

“That is hugely important. He will be remembered for that contribution for years to come.”

Irish President Michael D Higgins said Mr Hume had “transformed and remodelled politics in Ireland” and hailed his “personal bravery and leadership”.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald described Mr Hume as a “towering figure, a national icon”.

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John Hume with his wife Pat after his election to the European Parliament in 1979

Mr Hume had been suffering from dementia for many years.

He died in the early hours of Monday at Owen Mor nursing home in Derry.

In a statement, his family said: “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.”

Analysis – BBC NI political editor Mark Devenport

There is no way you could overestimate John Hume’s contribution in the political development of Northern Ireland.

He was definitely, during those years, the brains behind the approach to the peace process.

He worked on differing relationships, trying to solve problems which seemed for so many years to be completely without any possible solution.

He helped create the political space in which the different parties could manoeuvre their way towards what became the the Good Friday Agreement.

John Hume battled on at very hard times during the Troubles -when any kind of dialogue came under attack from opponents as being a sign of weakness.

He persevered with his efforts to bring about a solution.

The family’s statement added: “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.”

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