Nobel laureate John Hume laid to rest in N.Ireland

© Agence France-Presse

The wicker casket containing Hume's remains was brought into St Eugene's Cathedral in Londonderry on Tuesday evening

Londonderry (United Kingdom) (AFP) - John Hume, whose tireless efforts to bridge sectarian divides in Northern Ireland won him the Nobel Peace Prize, was buried in Londonderry Wednesday as tributes poured in from global icons ranging from Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama to Bill Clinton and Irish rocker Bono.

High-profile figures across the world paid homage following Hume's death on Monday aged 83, lamenting the passing of a political giant.

Hume was a key architect of the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement, which largely ended three decades of violence in Northern Ireland that killed 3,500 people.

"Mindful of the Christian faith that inspired John Hume's untiring efforts to promote dialogue, reconciliation and peace.... His Holiness commends his noble soul to the loving mercy of Almighty God," Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said in a statement on behalf of Pope Francis.

The Dalai Lama said Hume's "steady persistence set an example for all of us" and that he had "lived a truly meaningful life".

Northern Ireland's first minister and deputy first minister, Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill, attended the ceremony, along with Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin and Britain's Northern Ireland minister, Brandon Lewis.

Despite his family asking the public to stay away from the funeral over fears of coronavirus transmission, a few dozen people gathered outside the cathedral.

Hundreds also lined nearby streets applauding as Hume's cortege made its way to a private burial following the funeral.

The family had asked mourners to light a "candle for peace" at their homes -- a suggestion taken up by many people across Ireland, as well as in government buildings in London, Belfast and Dublin.

'A great servant'

Hume first became politically active in the movement for Catholic equality in Londonderry -- a city on the front line of the conflict between nationalists who favour being part of Ireland and Protestant unionists who want Northern Ireland to remain in the United Kingdom.

He went on to become a member of the Northern Irish, British and European parliaments after helping to found the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) in 1970, which he then led for more than two decades.

A passionate nationalist with a total aversion to violence, Hume maintained a staunchly moderate path during the so-called Troubles.

He shared the 1998 Nobel peace prize with his unionist counterpart David Trimble.

Irish singer Bono said in a statement: "We were looking for a great leader and found a great servant. We found John Hume."

He had been out of the public spotlight for most of the last decade as he battled dementia, but his death triggered grief and many tributes Monday.

Foster, leader of the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party, called Hume "a giant in Irish nationalism".

Former US President Bill Clinton, who worked alongside him on the 1998 peace accord, hailed his "enduring sense of honour".

"He kept marching on against all odds towards a brighter future for all the children of Northern Ireland," he added.

Ex-British prime minister Tony Blair, another to help craft the deal, praised Hume as "a visionary who refused to believe the future had to be the same as the past".


Members of the SDLP had formed a socially-distanced guard of honour as Hume's body was brought to St Eugene's Cathedral on Tuesday evening, accompanied by his widow Pat.

At the funeral one of Hume's five children, John Hume Jr., read an appreciation while Bishop Donal McKeown welcomed attendees with a poignant address.

"His life's vocation was to be peacemaker for the good of others. Because of his past we can face the future," he said.

In Londonderry, where Hume is immortalised on the city's famous murals, floral tributes recalled that role.

"John Hume saw very early that one life was too many," Londonderry resident Jon McCourt told AFP.

"When you've carried too many coffins, and you've visited too many homes where sons and daughters and fathers and mothers have died, you start to see something different."