Ireland

Funeral of John Hume hears peacemaker held ‘deep conviction in the power of dialogue’

Live: President Higgins and Micheál Martin among attendees at Mass in Derry

Though restricted through Covid-19 the people of Derry pay tribute to John Hume through candles and condolences. Video: Enda O'Dowd

The funeral Mass for the Nobel Laureate and former SDLP leader John Hume is under way in Derry.

Tributes from the Pope and the Dalai Lama are among those which will be read at the funeral, as well as a reflection from Mr Hume’s son, John jnr.

Due to the coronavirus restrictions only about 120 people can be present inside St Eugene’s Cathedral in Derry for Requiem Mass. The cathedral grounds have been closed to the public, but local people have been gathering along the railings since about 10am to pay their final respects.

The remains of John Hume in St Eugene’s Cathedral on August 4th, 2020 in Derry, Northern Ireland. Photograph: Stephen Latimer - Pool/Getty Images
The remains of John Hume in St Eugene’s Cathedral on August 4th, 2020 in Derry, Northern Ireland. Photograph: Stephen Latimer - Pool/Getty Images

Inside the cathedral a portrait of Mr Hume has been placed at the side of altar, with candles in front of it.

Among those present are the President Michael D Higgins, the Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, the North’s First and Deputy First Ministers, Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill, and the North’s Secretary of State, Brandon Lewis.

Also in attendance were friends and colleagues from throughout Mr Hume’s life, including civil rights leader and co-founder of the SDLP Austin Currie, Derry civil rights leader Micheal Canavan, and songwriter Phil Coulter, as well as staff from the Derry care home where Mr Hume spent his final years.

The President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins arrives at St Eugene’s Cathedral in Derry. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
The President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins arrives at St Eugene’s Cathedral in Derry. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Pope Francis said he had been “saddened” to learn of Mr Hume’s death, and sent his prayers and blessings.

He paid tribute to Mr Hume’s achievements as a peacemaker, saying he was “mindful of the Christian faith that inspired John Hume’s untiring efforts to promote dialogue, reconciliation and peace among the people of Northern Ireland.”

The Dalai Lama praised his “deep conviction in the power of dialogue and negotiations in resolving problems in his homeland”, which he said had been an “example of non-violent resolution of issues.”

Mr Hume’s “steady persistence” message of “peace and nonviolence in the resolution of conflict, no matter how protracted or difficult it may seem to be, will long survive him,” he said. “He has lived a truly meaningful life.”

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill outside St Eugene’s Cathedral. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill outside St Eugene’s Cathedral. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Tributes were also read by the Bishop of Derry, Dr Donal McKeown, from the former US president Bill Clinton, and the UK prime minister Boris Johnson.

Mr Clinton said he and his wife Hillary had been “deeply saddened” by the passing of their friend, Mr Hume, “who fought his long war for peace in Northern Ireland, his chosen weapons an unshakeable commitment to non-violence, persistence, kindness and love.

“He was Ireland’s Martin Luther King,” he said.

Mr Johnson said that “last night a candle was lit and placed in the door of Downing Street, to pay respects to John Hume”.

He said: “The world has lost a giant of a politician, who was recognised the world over for the immense contribution he made to Northern Ireland.

“We should never forget the lasting impact he made and will continue to have on Northern Ireland. His unending determination and courage paved the way for peace and because of all he did then Northern Ireland is a safer stronger and better place. This will be his legacy,” he said.

A tribute was also sent by Bono, who described him as “a man whose life made all our lives bigger.”

“We were looking for a great leader and found a great servant,” he said.

Arriving at the cathedral, the North’s First Minister, the DUP leader Arlene Foster, said she was pleased to have been able to come and pay her respects as an individual and on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland.

“It’s a very sad day but it’s also a very proud day for the city and for the family and the many many friends of John Hume, ” she said.

If you are reading this on The Irish Times app, please click here to see the livestream of John Hume’s funeral Mass on our mobile site

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