ALL SIDES MUST honour the Good Friday Agreement, the Taoiseach has said at the unveiling of a bust of Nobel laureate John Hume at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
Micheál Martin is in the French city for a series of engagements at the Council of Europe marking Ireland’s presidency of the body.
He joined the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, in unveiling a bust of the long-time SDLP leader and key architect of the Good Friday agreement which the government donated to the EP.
It marks the contribution the Nobel Peace Prize winner made during his 25 years as an MEP and the inspiration he took from the European project in his work.
Artist Liz O’Kane created the bust.
In a speech, the Taoiseach said he was “honoured to be here today to remember and to celebrate the late John Hume whom we sadly lost in 2020″.
“This bust is a reminder of John’s unwavering commitment to peace on the island of Ireland, his commitment to the European ideal, and the political skill and tenacity with which he bound them together,” Martin said.
He said Hume’s influence was “key” to reaching the Good Friday Agreement.
“The Good Friday Agreement shows what can be achieved when we work together in partnership, in Ireland and in the UK, with the support of our friends in Europe and the United States,” he said.
“And – as imagined first by John Hume – the Agreement was resoundingly endorsed by the people of Ireland, North and South, in transformational referendums in 1998, and it retains that support today.
“The people mandated power-sharing, North-South and East-West political institutions; principles of partnership, mutual respect and parity of esteem; and the overarching goal of striving ‘in every practical way for reconciliation’.
“All parties to the Agreement need to live up to those principles and objectives today.”
Its presentation was preceded by a lecture onHume by Christopher Patten, former Conservative politician and Chancellor of Oxford University.
Dr Sean Farren, chairman of the John and Pat Hume Foundation said: “The unveiling of the magnificent bust of John Hume at the European Parliament in Strasbourg is a very important moment for the Hume family.
“It is also hugely symbolic as the European Union inspired John Hume’s journey of peace, reconciliation and diversity.
“The importance of the EU was clear from his very first visit to Strasbourg in 1979, as a member of the European Parliament.
“John Hume believed that respect for difference was the first principle of European Union.
“His powerful words resonant as strong today, as the people of Ukraine suffer from the violence of others.
“Today, in the face of adversity we must continue to choose the way of peace and step back from the shadow of war.
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“We must seek out justice and stand up against intolerance and tyranny.
“We must make real the promise of conflict resolution and move away from the terrible spiral of violence.”
Continuing his visit on tomorrow, the Taoiseach will address the plenary of the European Parliament, reflecting on the 50 years since Ireland decided to join the European Union.
He also hopes to meet the Speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament, who will also be visiting the European Parliament.
Martin said: “I greatly look forward to my visit to Strasbourg, the seat of a number of vital European Institutions.
“Ireland currently holds the presidency of the Council of Europe, a body which does vital work to support democracy, the rule of law and human rights across our continent.
“I look forward to discussing its work, especially in the context of the war in Ukraine.”
Additional reporting by Lauren Boland