John Hume’s contribution to peace building in Northern Ireland has been hailed across the political spectrum on both sides of the Irish Sea.
Unionist and nationalists in the region were united in praise for his efforts to end decades of sectarian conflict, while Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Irish premier Micheal Martin voiced similar tributes on behalf of the UK and Irish governments.
In Mr Hume’s beloved home town of Derry, current SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, who now holds the Foyle Westminster seat his political hero occupied for 22 years, said the island of Ireland had lost one of its greatest figures.
“In the days ahead, Ireland will be united in mourning his loss,” he said.
“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.”
Stormont First Minister Arlene Foster said Mr Hume was a giant figure in the life of Irish nationalism and wider Northern Ireland.
“For many of my generation, he was a constant throughout our lives,” said the DUP leader.
“Whilst we disagreed politically, I always admired his steadfast abhorrence of violence, regardless from where it came.
“Whilst he was recognised across the world, there can be no doubt however that his loss will be most keenly felt in his home city.
“My thoughts and prayers are with John’s family and friends at this difficult time. We think especially of his wife Pat, his children and grandchildren. I hope they take some comfort from the peace he helped to create.”
Sinn Fein deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill expressed her sadness.
“John Hume was a hugely important figure in our political history and a driving force in the Good Friday Agreement,” she said.
“He was a man of vision and committed to bringing about equal rights for all.
“John leaves behind a legacy of power sharing and peace.”
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.”
Ireland’s deputy premier Leo Varadkar also paid tribute to Mr Hume.
“Any attempt to summarise John Hume’s contribution to the people of the island of Ireland is sure to fall short,” he said.
“He was a once-in-a-generation leader whose vision for peace was only surpassed by his hard work in making that vision a reality.”
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