Former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has paid tribute to John Hume as a “giant of Irish politics”.
He conceded the pair had “many disagreements”, but said they had been able to talk to “promote the primacy of politics”.
Mr Adams and Mr Hume had been involved in secret talks during some of the darkest days of the Troubles, an effort that has been credited with bringing about the IRA ceasefire.
Gerry Adams speaking to the media on the passing of John Hume, and extending his condolences to the Hume family and @SDLPlive.
— Sinn Féin (@sinnfeinireland) August 3, 2020
The former Sinn Fein chief told media in Belfast on Monday that had it not been for Mr Hume, there would not be the peace there is today in Northern Ireland, describing the peace process as “his huge achievement”.
“He was singularly against the IRA. But he was a Derry man so he knew that republicans who were involved in armed struggle were serious, so the way to get at that wasn’t to have the stand-off that we had… when John bent his will, along with me and with others, to find an alternative way forward that was what worked,” he said.
Mr Adams said they met secretly for over a decade.
“At the end of it all, it worked and it worked not least because of John Hume, and many others,” he said.
“But just because this is the sad day of his passing, let’s mark it that it would not have happened without John Hume or Pat Hume.
“I think he was generally a brave man, if you look at some of the old footage, the one that always strikes me is of Magilligan Strand, if you look at him being water-cannoned and being in the middle of the fracas that occurred around some of those early civil rights marches.
“I think what was significant was he was a Derry man, so he wasn’t in an ivory tower, he wasn’t in a little bubble, he was presented by Father Alex Reid with the possibility that if we could shape an alternative, we could shape a new political dispensation. And being given that possibility, he then bent his will over a long time to create with me and others what we now have.”
Mr Adams dismissed the “lazy narrative” that Mr Hume sacrificed the SDLP for the peace process.
Sinn Fein went on to overtake the SDLP as the largest party representing nationalism in the 2000s.
“I think there is a very lazy narrative that John Hume sacrificed the SDLP, and that Sinn Fein were crafty and sneaky. That is not the case,” he said.
“The SDLP without John Hume just wasn’t fit for purpose for the challenges that came up afterwards and Sinn Fein was, and that’s as simple and straight forward as that.”
Asked about personal memories of John Hume, Mr Adams recalled the former SDLP leader’s singing, and paid tribute to his wife Pat for her support of him.
“He liked to sing, and he wasn’t a bad singer, he probably thought he was a better singer perhaps than he was, but he was a very good singer and he enjoyed the craic, and he was a very ordinary person, for all of him being feted about the world.
“We have lost one of our leaders and it is a sad day.
“We can’t write the past but we can certainly write the future and I like to think that’s what John Hume has done.”