Former SDLP leader John Hume with then US President Bill Clinton.

Tribute to man in the ‘middle’ John Hume

Two Belturbet film makers whose documentary was the last interview recorded with the late John Hume, have paid tribute to the former politician.

‘The Boys of St Columb’s’ was produced by Kevin McCann, with interviews conducted by Maurice Fitzpatrick. Aired on BBC and RTÉ, it shone light on how education, specifically the 1947 British Act of Education, changed the lives of Mr Hume, and many others including Seamus Heaney, Bishop Edward Daly and Phil Coulter.

These Derry boys were among the first generation of Catholics to receive free education, denied to those before them.“Who knows what would have happened had John Hume not been educated and gone on to do what he did?” remarked Kevin, speaking to The Anglo-Celt following news of the Nobel Laureates’ passing last Monday, August 3.

Mr Hume spoke at the time about the influence of Dr Martin Luther King and his belief in education and peace.

“It was a great privilege to work with John, but also with Pat, his wife, who was also a shining light in communities and politics on the island. John was always very clear that Pat was a rock in his life, and she should also be commended, remembered and prayed for at this time.”

Born in Co Derry in January 1937, Mr Hume is widely regarded as one of the most important figures in recent Irish political history, and a key architect of the peace process.

In 1994, he took part in a historic meeting with then Taoiseach Albert Reynolds and Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams. A second ceasefire was called in July 1997, which led to talks chaired by US Senator George Mitchell, and ultimately the signing of the Good Friday Agreement on April 10, 1998.

Maurice himself also produced the compelling documentary ‘John Hume in America’, which focused on how the former SDLP sought to harness the political influence of the Irish-American diaspora in Washington to address the legacy of colonial division in Ireland.

It features, among others, stirring accounts by presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, as well as US congressmen and senators, all detailing the lengths to which Mr Hume was prepared to go politically to bring an end to years of bloody violence in the North.

Maurice, in his dealings with Mr Hume, states: “He had an ability to bring people with him, see and share in his vision. But equally, particularly during the height of the Troubles, he had a lot of pressure to deal with, a lot of stress. Really, beneath it all, Hume was a very pensive figure.”

In death, Maurice surmises that Mr Hume would be pleased to see so many cross sections of society in Northern Ireland mourn his passing.

“For someone who came out of Derry in 1940s, 50s and 60s, for them to see today that Ireland is economically prosperous, that there is Peace in the North, that the country has a seat on the UN Security Council, and is a prominent member of the EU, all of that was a tremendous step forward and meant more to him than all of the old tribal politics. A lot of what he set out to achieve has been achieved, and I think he’d take great solace from that.”

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