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From teacher to peacemaker: A timeline of John Hume's life and career


John Hume

John Hume


John Hume

Former SDLP leader and Nobel peace prize winner John Hume has died aged 83 years. Here we reflect on his career, life and achievement

  • Born January 18, 1937, in Derry, a city divided by poverty and religious discrimination.
  • He went on to become an internationally acknowledged human rights and peace campaigner, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1998, and named “Ireland’s Greatest Person” by popular vote on RTÉ television in 2010.
  • Educated in St Columb’s College, Derry, and Maynooth, where he abandoned studies for the Catholic priesthood. Became a teacher of history and French and a community activist in his native city.
  • Married wife Pat, also a teacher in 1960. They had five children.
  • Originally, active in the credit union movement, and housing action, fighting discrimination against nationalists. An early activist in the Northern Ireland Civil Rights’ Association.
  • A life-long proponent of peaceful protest he criticised the old Nationalist Party’s failure to properly represent the Catholic minority.
  • Elected to the Northern Ireland parliament in 1969. In 1970 helped found the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) seeking justice via non-violent action.
  • Briefly Commerce Minister in 1974 in the power-sharing government, set up under the 1973 Sunningdale Agreement and smashed by Loyalist trade unions.
  • From 1972 onwards he had begun successfully forging long-term links with key Irish-US politicians, notably Senators Ted Kennedy and US House speaker, Tipp O’Neill. These people eventually exerted big influence in London on the Northern Ireland issues.
  • Elected to the European Parliament in 1979 he became an increasingly influential figure in Dublin, London, Brussels and Washington. He also took over leadership of the SDLP.
  • Associated with the New Ireland Forum in 1984 which led on to the 1985 Anglo Irish Agreement.
  • In the early 1990s began controversial talks with Sinn Féin and the IRA via Gerry Adams. He faced criticism on all sides and long periods of doubt. But they yielded an IRA ceasefire in 1994 and the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
  • In October 1998 John Hume and Ulster Unionist Party leader, David Trimble, were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • In 2001 he turned down an opportunity to become Northern Ireland deputy first minister and retired in 2004.
  • In recent years he has suffered poor health with problems including dementia.

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