There are lessons to be learned from the life of John Hume which can be used in today's political climate, his son says.
John Hume Jr was speaking to the Irish Examiner at the unveiling of a bust of the former SDLP leader at the European Parliament building in Strasbourg.
Mr Hume Snr was an MEP for Northern Ireland for 25 years from 1979 to 2004 and his son said that he “drew so much inspiration from what the parliament stands for”.
“Dad had very basic principles in public life and there's lessons that can be learned. Unfortunately the world today is what it is, but things like respect for difference, respect for diversity, respect for the rule of law were all things very close to his heart.”
The one and a half times life-sized bust was created by artist Liz O'Kane, who said that it depicts Mr Hume at the time of his initial election to the European Parliament and that Mr Hume's wife Pat had made one request: “That his hair be tidied up.”
Taoiseach Micheál Martin unveiled the bust as a violinist played Danny Boy and said that it was a “unique privilege to do so”.
Mr Martin used his speech to call for a renewed commitment to the Good Friday Agreement and said the 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”.
“John’s influence was key in 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. 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.”
The Taoiseach added that John Hume’s “commitment to principles of non-violence, of respect for diversity, equality and protection of fundamental rights, and his work for peaceful change and social progress has, and continues, to inspire many across Europe”.
President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola said that Mr Hume had set an example for peace building across Europe.
“John Hume believed that difference should never be the source of hatred and conflict. He brought the conversation about brokering peace in Northern Ireland to Strasbourg, drawing from lessons learnt from French and German reconciliation. At the European Parliament, of which he was a member for 25 years, we celebrate his legacy of peace.”