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John Hume, 1937 – 2020 August 3, 2020

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Not a bad overview of a remarkable life. Though this understates perhaps just how vicious the attacks on Hume were in the late 1980s and through to 1998.

In the gruelling months before the first IRA ceasefire and especially after the IRA Shankill Road bomb in October 1993, Hume faced a barrage of abuse and near-hatred from unionists, Conservative politicians and British officials, and from some of Dublin’s political and media elite.

We live in the dispensation that in no small part he brought about.

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1. Alibaba - August 3, 2020

I am reminded of a story told by my partner after attending a cup final match between Derry and St Patrick’s Athletic. In the beer garden afterwards, John Hume’s eyes lit up upon seeing Martin McGuinness walking through the crowd and joined him to exchange some thoughts. People asked McGuinness for some photos to which he happily agreed. Someone asked Hume for a photo, to which he replied “Fuck Off!” Whereupon St Pats fans shouted “Whoo,whoo, you” to  the man who requested the photo and kindly took him away to explain that Hume had alzheimer-type difficulties.

On another occasion a friend sat beside John Hume at a post-conference dinner. During discussions Hume leaned forward and said “Are those teeth yours?” to which she took ownership. Hume said “Get rid of them, they’re awful”. To his credit, once Hume noticed my friend’s dismay, he lightly tapped her on the arm and burst out laughing, as they both did joyfully 

Like him or not, Hume strikes me as someone who fought his politics as best he could to the end. R.I.P.

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WorldbyStorm - August 3, 2020

Thanks Alibaba. They’re great insights into a very complex person.

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sonofstan - August 3, 2020

Pat’s and Derry playing tonight as it happens. How do you have a minutes silence in a stadium with no fans?

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Alibaba - August 3, 2020

I guess it can happen if the match (or highlight) is on television.

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2. CL - August 3, 2020

“Former Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams says John Hume’s decision to meet him for talks in 1986 “was a breakthrough moment in Irish politics” and described the Good Friday Agreement as “a landmark moment for both of us”…..
“When others were stuck in the ritual politics of condemnation John Hume had the courage to take real risks for peace. His decision to meet with me in September 1986, following an invitation from Fr Alex Reid, was a breakthrough moment in Irish politics….
“This was at a time when the great and the good in the political and media establishments on these islands were committed to marginalising and demonising Sinn Féin.”…
He said Mr Hume had been subjected to a “vitriolic and deeply hurtful and personalised campaign” and faced criticism “from some within his own party”.
https://www.irishnews.com/news/johnhume/2020/08/03/news/gerry-adams-recounts-his-fondest-memory-of-john-hume-2024872/

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3. Jim Monaghan - August 3, 2020

“How The Sunday Indo’s Assault On Hume-Adams Actually Aided The Peace Process
Posted on October 6, 2015 | 2 Comments
No-one who was around in April 1993, and in the weeks and months that followed the allegedly accidental – but more likely deliberate – revelation that the SDLP leader John Hume and the Sinn Fein President and IRA leader, Gerry Adams had been meeting for secret peace talks, can forget the reaction of The Sunday Independent newspaper in the weeks that followed.

Assuming that the aims of the talks were not about achieving ‘peace’, but to create a pan-Nationalist monolith that would trundle the Unionists into a united Ireland, the Sindo went into full scale offensive mode.”https://thebrokenelbow.com/2015/10/06/how-the-sunday-indos-assault-on-hume-adams-actually-aided-the-peace-process/?fbclid=IwAR2ROeJtBNrREMCEzxR_H50wPlvI7oBH_q4czpYhAUFlQ59__bPKkCsUy4Y

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4. tafkaGW - August 3, 2020

Considering he was born to a poor Catholic Derry family, he has a remarkable footprint in Irish history.

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EWI - August 3, 2020

Not to take away from his achievements, but so do some other scions of poor families (such as de Valera).

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tafkaGW - August 4, 2020

Sure, but unlike de Valera, Hume was a convinced social democrat and achieved a fair deal, even before the peace process started.

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5. CL - August 3, 2020

“In the Republic, the SDLP leader John Hume was not without his critics, at the Workers’ Party Ard Fheis in April 1989 Proinsias De Rossa said, ‘We the Workers’ Party can assist the South in its slow and shocked reappraisal of John Hume who once had the status of a Saint in the South but is now exposed as another tribal leader whose main asset is that he says tribal things very slowly and very quietly’.
https://cain.ulster.ac.uk/events/bmtalks/murray/murray98.htm

“The Sunday Independent’s persistent and vicious attacks on John Hume were a serious mistake, an absolute disgrace and damaged the reputation of Irish journalism. – Yours, etc,
SEAN DONLON,…

“Here is an instance of one such Sunday Independent “warning”, courtesy of Eoghan Harris: “If we persist with the peace process it will end with sectarian slaughter in the North, with bombs in Dublin, Cork and Galway, and with the ruthless reign by provisional gangs over the ghettos of Dublin. The only way to avoid this abyss is to cut the cord to John Hume”.

“the actions of the Sunday Independent in the 1980s and 1990s were not normal “democratic discourse” but were a vitriolic campaign aimed at undermining and discrediting John Hume in his efforts to end violence.” (Letters in I.T., Oct. 5, 5015)
https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/letters/sunday-independent-and-john-hume-1.2379734

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EWI - August 3, 2020

Proinsias De Rossa said, ‘We the Workers’ Party can assist the South in its slow and shocked reappraisal of John Hume who once had the status of a Saint in the South but is now exposed as another tribal leader whose main asset is that he says tribal things very slowly and very quietly’.

Hoiw did this square with former Stickies such as Bew and Harris acting as advisors to the very markedly more ‘tribal’ UUP?

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WorldbyStorm - August 3, 2020

Even the language is EH to a tee … ‘tribal’ indeed.

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6. Fergal - August 3, 2020

Hume, not on his own of course, helped to end the violence, people like Harris, Myers, etc for all their negativity never stopped a bullet being fired…
Hume home was often attacked by the ira or its sympathisers…
Beaten up by the Brits…
Abused by loyalists too and southern nationalists and Marxists cf De Rossa his contribution to the Credit Union in Derry was huge !!! Helped to house quite a few people in the Bogside too

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tafkaGW - August 4, 2020

Yep.

The Myers of this world would be happy enough if the war was still grinding on.

John Hume (among many others) was willing to risk a lot – and the SDLP lost a great deal politically on a party political level – to stop the war.

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WorldbyStorm - August 4, 2020

I was just thinking that last night. There’s a cohort for who the continuation of the conflict would be on some level less sub-optimal because it wouldn’t require them to stretch themselves. The old tropes and certainties could be paraded. It really was almost the cleverest thing that could be done (as well as being the right thing) to retreat from armed conflict, obviously in terms of saving lives but also in terms of making real political progress and also defanging those attitudes.

And in a weird way I wonder if for Hume the fact that the SDLP was and continues to be central to government in the North was its own reward? After all it’s near unthinkable for it to not be in the power-sharing administration. All this stuff about dominance etc with the SDLP and UUP being ahead of the others is in a way so un-Hume like.

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sonofstan - August 4, 2020

“After all it’s near unthinkable for it to not be in the power-sharing administration”

Weren’t they in opposition for a while, along with the UUP?

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - August 4, 2020

Briefly between May 2016 and Jan 2017, along with the UUP and Alliance but I think that proves the rule given strenuous efforts were made to reinstall all parties within it and that situation was clearly considered the norm and most optimal. Can’t see any of them keen to walk out again

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7. roddy - August 4, 2020

They tried to act big in opposition,staging phoney votes to embarass SF but then shat themselves when McGuinness brought the whole show down.

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8. Joe - August 4, 2020

“vicious… attacks on Hume in the late eighties through to 1998”. These were the verbal attacks, yes? The attacks from critics of Hume’s engagement with Adams which resulted in the peace process?
They were terrible for sure. Those attackers were wrong, end of. Hume, more than anyone, helped end the war and establish the peace.

I’d hope many on here would at least as strongly condemn the attacks on Hume which preceded those verbal ones. The violent, physical attacks, mainly by supporters of the IRA, on Hume and his home and his family.

https://www.irishecho.com/2011/02/a-view-north-hume-sdlp-have-faced-violence-too-4/

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9. roddy - August 4, 2020

I have no problem condemning attacks on Hume’s home .

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WorldbyStorm - August 4, 2020

Absolutely, no question about it.

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10. tomasoflatharta - August 5, 2020
11. sonofstan - August 5, 2020

teethgrinder….
BBC news today talking of Hume’s funeral in ‘Londonderry’. Would it be too much, just once?

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12. gypsybhoy69 - August 8, 2020

My own Hume personal story goes back to ’92. Did some election work in the Foyle constituency two weekends running for the party I was a member of at the time. It wasn’t an easy election to be involved in. IIRC correctly it was the first after the split of a few months before. The candidate was running for the first time and I thought he was a good candidate but still he was taking over running from a long standing candidate in Eamonn Melaugh. After a day of election work we headed to a pub. I can’t say morale was high looking back but sure there’s always the craic amongst comrades. Hume came into the pub and my memories not good but he came in chatted to those near the door. One of the comrades a bit the worst for wear spotted him and started mouthing under his breath. Doubt Hume heard him but he turned and left anyway. Next thing we know the barman is asking what we wanted as Hume had stood us all a pint. The mouthy one didn’t let the pint get in the way of principles and drank it down. Sadly, drink was to be the death of the comrade. So Hume bought me a pint, probably the oldest trick in the book but I didn’t think it was just a gimmick.

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WorldbyStorm - August 8, 2020

+1

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Colm B - August 8, 2020

Hit the nail on the head there gb, he was a decent person who played a major role in bringing peace to the North even if his political positions were miles away from what we as socialists would espouse. I thought Eamon McCann’s obituary was really good at highlighting the decency but also the flaws in Hume’s politics.
The Harris faction’s rabid hatred of Hume infected the WP, particularly De Rossa and co. It was irrational and inaccurate. I don’t know if it continued in the post-split WP but it found its worst expression when DL entered gov with FG with De Rossa and Bruton’s neo-unionism dovetailing. It was always sickening to see people who thought it was fine to talk to loyalists who had butchered innocent workers (no doubt, a necessary part of the peace process) denounce Hume as some sort of Provo dupe.

Whatever about the GFA and its many flaws, Hume played an important role in bringing an end to the war, and that saved a lot of lives. The end of the war also opened up political spaces where the essentially centrist politics that Hume espoused might be challenged from the left. You don’t have to see him as a saint or agree with what he stood for to ackowledge that.

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13. CL - August 8, 2020

” he appeared to be dictating the Northern Irish policies of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs who in turn were greening the British Foreign Office, and further alienating Unionists. Yes, he deserved a great deal of credit for persuading Irish-American activists to abandon financial support for Sinn Fein, but the people he associated with, like Ted Kennedy, reinforced his tunnel vision and arrogance.”
https://www.ruthdudleyedwards.co.uk/2020/08/humes-legitimisation-of-sinn-fein-was-an-appalling-misjudgement/

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WorldbyStorm - August 8, 2020

Wow.

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14. CL - August 8, 2020

“In a classic replay of the enmity of small differences, O’Brien reserves his most biting criticism for another Irish politician who, from 1969 on, bravely set himself against the violence of extreme Catholic nationalism, John Hume. It was Hume who found a way to bring the I.R.A., through its political entity, Sinn Fein, to the negotiating table. O’Brien is dismissive of Hume’s accomplishment, and of the entire peace process that unfolded under his leadership. That process culminated in the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, of which the Irish people overwhelmingly approve, but which O’Brien rejects as a propitiation of ”those who have murdered and maimed.” That the agreement has stopped the murdering and maiming, and that it has led to a functioning Protestant-Catholic government in Belfast, could seem not to matter to O’Brien, but it is important to note that this memoir’s bitter skepticism toward political developments in Northern Ireland is two years out of date. Luckily for Ireland, those two years, notwithstanding the difficulty of the agreement’s actual implementation, strongly refute O’Brien’s grim analysis.”

“The desire to become a genuine all-Ireland movement was one factor in the long process which brought about IRA ceasefires and decommissioning.
The peace process has been good to Sinn Féin and the dynamic, community-based party of today is as much a product of the last 20 years as it is of the long history it claims continuity from.”-Brian Hanley
https://www.thejournal.ie/readme/sinn-fein-5006630-Feb2020/

The revisionist acolytes of Conor Cruise O’Brien cannot be too happy with the rise of Sinn Fein, North and South; perhaps that was their fear from the beginning.
An all-Ireland radical republicanism is a potential threat to the status quo political and economic power structure.

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15. Daniel Rayner O'Connor - August 8, 2020

I remember Dick Walsh telling me about the Westminster general election of 1970. In the contest in the Co.’Londonderry’ constituency, Hume stood down to make way for Eddie MacAteer as a ‘Unity’ candidate, thus gaining a lot of kudos for his unselfishness. He had been able to persuade Eddie to run on the grounds that he could win enough Protestant votes to take the seat and he kept up the pretence to his face throughout the campaign. Off the record, however, he recognised that Eddie hadn’t a snowballs chance, as, indeed, the result confirmed. It was Macateer’s last hurrah. Undoubtedly such manoeuvre was necessary for Hume’s survival, but this somewhat machiavellian side of his character has not been mentioned in the encomiums to him that we have been reading. He was a tough politician, perhaps. as was noted during his career, too much of an individualist to build the constitutional nationalist Party of his dreams.
It is, I think, agreed generally that his great achievement was to end the thirty year war by bringing the physical force republicans to the negotiating table rather than letting them continue a bloody fight for an indeterminate period before it petered out. For this he ranks with O’Connell and Parnell.
His flaws were that he persuaded Adams and his lieutenants to stop, on the basis of an scenario based on two inaccurate assumptions: that
the objective struggle was a purely six county one, and that Britain could be relied upon to act as an honest broker. These two errors are likely to break the ’98 agreement. In addition, though, as Tafka has mentioned, Hume was a social democrat, he was one at a time when social democracy was showing its futility. This affected him as well. He could not present any sort of social alternative to the neoliberal consensus. In the end SF beat him in that as well as in the promise of Irish unity.
He remains standing above any other Politician of his generation ,and certainly above those who denounced his peace moves from the safety of Dublin.

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