John Hume funeral to take place
Former SDLP leader John Hume will be laid to rest later after a funeral in his native city.
The remains of the Nobel Peace Prize winner were carried into St Eugene’s Cathedral in Londonderry on Tuesday evening ahead of Wednesday morning’s service.
The Derry politician feted around the world as a peacemaker died on Monday at the age of 83 after a long battle with dementia.
In ordinary circumstances, Mr Hume’s funeral would have been expected to draw huge crowds, but numbers will be limited due to coronavirus restrictions.
There were emotional scenes outside the cathedral on Tuesday evening as Mr Hume’s widow Pat was tightly embraced by family members as she watched her husband’s coffin being carried inside.
A socially-distanced guard of honour made up of SDLP activists watched on as the procession made its way to the doors of the cathedral.
They held candles in memory of the man hailed for his role forging the Good Friday peace accord.
The gesture was replicated in many homes across the island, as people placed candles in their windows in line with a request from Mr Hume’s family.
Irish president Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach Micheal Martin, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis all lit flames for the SDLP founding member.
Mr Hume was a key architect of the Good Friday Agreement and was awarded the Nobel prize for the pivotal role he played in ending the region’s sectarian conflict.
The funeral service will be broadcast on Wednesday morning by the BBC and RTE.
Mr Hume, a former MP, Stormont Assembly member and MEP, led the party he helped found for 22 years.
He was a prominent figure in the civil rights campaigns of the late 1960s and also played a leading role in the formation of the credit union movement.
Throughout his political career, he remained steadfast in his commitment to non-violence.
His participation in secret talks with then Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams in the late 1980s and early 1990s was a key catalyst for the nascent peace process.
The SDLP leader faced intense criticism, including some from within his own party, when his dialogue with Mr Adams became public in 1993.
Despite threats to his life, he persisted with his efforts to engage with the republican movement and to convince the IRA to end its campaign of violence.
The highlight of Mr Hume’s career came in 1998 with the signing of the historic Good Friday accord which largely ended Northern Ireland’s 30-year sectarian conflict.
Along with Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble, now Lord Trimble, Mr Hume was awarded the Nobel peace prize for his contribution to stopping the bloodshed.
In 2010, Mr Hume was named “Ireland’s Greatest” in a poll by Ireland’s national broadcaster RTE.
His death came just six months after that of fellow Good Friday architect and long-time SDLP deputy leader Seamus Mallon.
A number of vehicles were hijacked in Derry on Tuesday afternoon, with SDLP leader Colum Eastwood accusing those responsible of violating the grief of the city.