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John Hume
Nobel Peace prize winner John Hume 1998 from Wash. DC. (50184861292).jpg
Hume in 1998
Leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party
In office
6 May 1979 – 6 November 2001
Deputy Seamus Mallon
Preceded by Gerry Fitt
Succeeded by Mark Durkan
Member of the Legislative Assembly
for Foyle
In office
25 June 1998 – 1 December 2000
Preceded by Constituency established
Succeeded by Annie Courtney
Member of Parliament
for Foyle
In office
9 June 1983 – 11 April 2005
Preceded by Constituency established
Succeeded by Mark Durkan
Member of the European Parliament
for Northern Ireland
In office
10 June 1979 – 13 June 2004
Preceded by Constituency established
Succeeded by Bairbre de Brún
Member of the
Parliament of Northern Ireland
for Foyle
In office
24 February 1969 – 30 March 1972
Preceded by Eddie McAteer
Succeeded by Parliament abolished
Personal details
Born (1937-01-18)18 January 1937
Derry, Northern Ireland
Died 3 August 2020(2020-08-03) (aged 83)
Derry, Northern Ireland
Nationality Irish
Political party Social Democratic and Labour Party
Patricia Hone
(m. 1960)
Children 5
Alma mater St Patrick's College, Maynooth
Profession Educator

John Hume KCSG (18 January 1937 – 3 August 2020) was an Irish nationalist politician from Northern Ireland, widely regarded as one of the most important figures in the recent political history of Ireland, as one of the architects of the Northern Ireland peace process.

A native of Derry, he was a founding member of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), and served as its second leader from 1979 to 2001. He also served as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP), and a Member of the UK Parliament (MP), as well as a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly (MLA).

Hume was co-recipient of the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize with David Trimble, and also received both the Gandhi Peace Prize and the Martin Luther King Award. He is the only person to receive the three major peace awards.

In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI made Hume a Knight Commander of the Papal Order of St. Gregory the Great. He was named "Ireland's Greatest" in a 2010 public poll by Irish national broadcaster RTÉ to find the greatest person in Ireland's history.

Early life and education

Hume was born in 1937 into a working-class Catholic family in Derry, the eldest of seven children of Anne "Annie" (née Doherty), a seamstress, and Samuel Hume, a shipyard worker. He had a mostly Irish Catholic background; though his surname derived from one of his great-grandfathers, a Scottish Presbyterian who migrated to County Donegal. Hume attended St Columb's College and went on to St Patrick's College, Maynooth, the leading Catholic seminary in Ireland and a recognised college of the National University of Ireland, where he intended to study for the priesthood. Among his teachers was Tomás Ó Fiaich, the future cardinal and Primate of All Ireland.

Hume did not complete his clerical studies but did obtain an M.A. degree in French and history from the college in 1958, and then returned home to his native Derry, where he became a teacher at his Alma mater, St Columb's College. He was a founding member of the Credit Union movement in the city and was chair of the University for Derry Committee in 1965, an unsuccessful fight to have Northern Ireland's second university established in Derry in the mid-1960s.

Hume became the youngest ever President of the Irish League of Credit Unions at age 27. He served in the role from 1964 to 1968. He once said that "all the things I've been doing, it's the thing I'm proudest of because no movement has done more good for the people of Ireland, north and south, than the credit union movement."

Hume became a leading figure in the civil rights movement in the late 1960s along with people such as Hugh Logue. Hume was a prominent figure in the Derry Citizens' Action Committee. The DCAC was set up in the wake of 5 October 1968 march through Derry which had caused much attention to be drawn towards the situation in Northern Ireland. The purpose of the DCAC was to make use of the publicity surrounding recent events to bring to light grievances in Derry that had been suppressed by the Unionist Government for years. The DCAC, unlike Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA), was aimed specifically at a local campaign, improving the situation in Derry for everyone, and maintaining a peaceful stance. The committee also had a Stewards Association that was there to prevent any violence at marches or sit-downs.

Political career

President Clinton and SDLP leader John Hume
Hume with US president Bill Clinton in 1995

Hume became an Independent Nationalist member of the Parliament of Northern Ireland in 1969 at the height of the civil rights campaign. He was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1973, and served as Minister of Commerce in the short-lived power-sharing Executive in 1974. He stood unsuccessfully for the Westminster Parliament for the Londonderry constituency in October 1974, and was elected for Foyle in 1983.

In October 1971 he joined four Westminster MPs in a 48-hour hunger strike to protest at the internment without trial of hundreds of suspected Irish republicans. State papers that have been released under the 30 year rule that an Irish diplomat eight years later in 1979 believed Hume supported the return of internment.

In 1977, Hume challenged a regulation under the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act (Northern Ireland) 1922 which allowed any soldier to disperse an assembly of three or more people. The Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, Lord Lowry, held that the regulation was ultra vires under Section 4 of the Government of Ireland Act 1920 which forbade the Parliament of Northern Ireland to make laws in respect of the army.

A founding member of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), he succeeded Gerry Fitt as its leader in 1979. He also served as one of Northern Ireland's three Members of the European Parliament and served on the faculty of Boston College, from which he received an honorary degree in 1995.

Hume was directly involved in secret talks with the British government and Sinn Féin, in an effort to bring Sinn Féin to the discussion table openly. The talks are speculated to have led directly to the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985.

The vast majority of unionists rejected the agreement and staged a massive and peaceful public rally in Belfast City Centre to demonstrate their distaste. Many Republicans and nationalists also rejected it, as they had seen it as not going far enough. Hume, however, continued dialogue with both governments and Sinn Féin. The "Hume–Adams process" eventually delivered the 1994 IRA ceasefire which ultimately provided the relatively peaceful backdrop against which the Good Friday agreement was brokered.


Hume is credited as being the thinker behind many political developments in Northern Ireland, from the power-sharing Sunningdale Agreement to the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the Belfast Agreement. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998 alongside the then-leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, David Trimble.

When Trimble became First Minister, it was expected that Hume would take the role of Deputy First Minister, being the leader of the second largest party, the SDLP. Instead, this role was handed to Séamus Mallon, also of the SDLP. Some political journalists cited a bad working relationship between Hume and Trimble, despite the two men collecting the Nobel Prize together.

On his retirement from the SDLP leadership in 2001, Hume was praised across the political divide, even by his long-time opponent, fellow MP and MEP, the Rev. Ian Paisley. Hume held the Tip O'Neill Chair in Peace Studies at the University of Ulster, currently funded by The Ireland Funds.


John Hume 2008
Hume in 2008

On 4 February 2004, Hume announced his complete retirement from politics and was succeeded by Mark Durkan as SDLP leader. He did not contest the 2004 European election (when his seat was won by Bairbre de Brún of Sinn Féin), nor did he run in the 2005 general election, in which Mark Durkan retained the Foyle constituency for the SDLP.

Hume and his wife, Pat, continued to be active in promoting European integration, issues around global poverty and the Credit Union movement. He was also a supporter of the Campaign for the Establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, an organisation which campaigns for democratic reformation of the United Nations. In retirement, he continued to speak publicly, including a visit to Seton Hall University in New Jersey in 2005, the first Summer University of Democracy of the Council of Europe (Strasbourg, 10–14 July 2006), and at St Thomas University, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, on 18 July 2007. A building added to the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, was named after him. Hume held the position of Club President of his local football team, Derry City F.C., which he supported all his life. He was a patron of the children's charity Plan International Ireland.

Personal life

In 1960, Hume married Patricia "Pat" Hone (22 February 1938 – 2 September 2021), a primary school teacher, whom he had first met two years earlier at a dancehall in Muff, County Donegal. The couple had five children - Thérèse, Áine, Aidan, John and Mo - as well as 16 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.


Roberta Metsola to unveil John Hume bust in European Parliament in Strasbourg - 52159306852
President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola unveiling a bust of Hume in the European Parliament in Strasbourg (2022)

In 2015, Hume was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, of which he had first displayed symptoms in the late 1990s. Hume died in the early hours of 3 August 2020 at a nursing home in Derry, at the age of 83. On his death, former Labour leader and prime minister Tony Blair said: "John Hume was a political titan; a visionary who refused to believe the future had to be the same as the past." The Dalai Lama said on Twitter: "John Hume's deep conviction in the power of dialogue and negotiations to resolve conflict was unwavering... It was his leadership and his faith in the power of negotiations that enabled the 1998 Good Friday Agreement to be reached. His steady persistence set an example for us all to follow."

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: John Hume para niños

  • List of peace activists

Awards and honours

  • LL.D. (honoris causa), Boston College, 1995 (one of 44 honorary doctorates Hume was awarded)
  • LL.D. (honoris causa), University College Galway, 1996
  • Four Freedoms, Freedom of Speech Medal Recipient, 1996
  • Golden Doves for Peace Journalistic Prize, 1997
  • Nobel Prize for Peace (co-recipient), 1998
  • Officier de Légion d’Honneur, France, 1999
  • Martin Luther King Award, 1999
  • Blessed are the Peacemakers Award from Catholic Theological Union, 2000
  • International Gandhi Peace Prize, 2001
  • Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement, 2002
  • Freedom of two cities; Derry City in 2000 & Cork in 2004
  • Honorary D.Litt., St. Thomas University, Fredericton, N.B., 2007
  • Honorary Patron, University Philosophical Society, Trinity College Dublin, 2007
  • Ireland's Greatest (public poll conducted by RTÉ), 2010
  • Knight of Saint Gregory, 2012


  • "Over the years, the barriers of the past—the distrust and prejudices of the past—will be eroded, and a new society will evolve, a new Ireland based on agreement and respect for difference."
  • "I thought that I had a duty to help those that weren't as lucky as me."
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