Hume praised for peace efforts

There have been many tributes to former SDLP leader John Hume, after he confirmed that he is to step down from the European Parliament and Westminster, drawing a line under his political career.

The former SDLP leader expressed regret that he would not be standing again at the next elections, citing medical advice and the large amount of travelling involved in the jobs for his decision.

In the late `80s and early `90s, John Hume helped to create the Irish peace initiative by entering talks with Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams. Those talks ultimately led to the IRA ceasefire and the negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with UUP leader David Trimble in 1998. John Hume stepped down as leader of the SDLP in 2001 and was succeeded by Mark Durkan.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said: ``The SDLP and ourselves have a different analysis and different objectives. But it is to John Hume's credit that he worked with us in trying to find a peaceful resolution of the causes of conflict on this island and between Britain and Ireland.

``He was vilified, of course, but in a short period the Hume/Adams dialogue, as it became known, opened up the possibility of a new beginning. ``This gave all our people hope and led to an agreement which was endorsed by rank and file unionists as well as nationalists and republicans.

``That period of hope is often forgotten now as the peace process stumbles from one crisis to another. But that hope should be a lasting tribute to the finest hour of John Hume.''

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern also paid tribute, saying that ``in Europe and at Westminster John Hume has earned the respect and gratitude of the people of Ireland''.

In a message from Brussels, European Parliament President Pat Cox paid tribute to Mr Hume as an articulate and effective voice for peace in Northern Ireland, and ``a European statesman''.

Bishop of Derry Seamus Hegarty said that the Foyle MP had been a ``political giant at local, national and international levels'' for many decades, and had ``dedicated his life to peace and democracy''.

Derry mayor and SDLP colleague Shaun Gallagher said Mr Hume's announcement marked a ``very sad day'' for the party.

DUP assembly member Willie Hay said that he had obvious political differences with Mr Hume, but he would be a ``great loss'' as a Northern Ireland MEP.

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