Throughout his life, John Hume embodied many political personae in the public mind: spokesman for Derry; constitutional politician; European; peacemaker; Westminster MP; negotiator; party politician; community activist; and civil rights leader.
Given the longevity and prominence of his presence in Irish public life, it is reasonable to expect a proportionate public awareness of his work. However, that is far from the case.
To younger generations, the full breadth of Hume's political achievement is hardly known, and, for some people, it took Hume's passing to prompt a full reflection on his centrality in recent Irish history.
In the North, in particular, the limited awareness of Hume's work is no accident.
Hume's language, his ideas and strategy have been appropriated considerably by a constituency hitherto hostile to them. Consequently, the origin of those ideas, strategies and language has been deliberately obscured by a distorted historical narrative fashioned to accomplish this appropriation.
Acknowledging the consistency of Hume's approach, from the mid-1960s onwards, shines a painful light on the inconsistency that others exhibited over the course of their political lives.
Hume sought a pluralist and inclusive future. He repudiated political narratives that sacralised 'freedom fighting' on the one hand, and, on the other, the unionist constitutional guarantee.
From the first, he was the man in the middle. He was determined to build a consensus that could form the basis of a lasting settlement among a divided people.
The degree to which his diagnosis of the Irish problem, and his prescription to heal it, has prevailed is remarkable. He matched his vision with a capacity to educate senior figures in wider spheres to engage in Northern Ireland.
Historian David Fitzpatrick has argued that "Americanisation might one day become the key feature of a major recasting of post-Famine Irish history". If so, the American dimension of Hume's activities will form a central plank of that history.
It began in 1972 when Hume won Senator Ted Kennedy over to a radically different analysis of the North. Hume proceeded, from the mid-1970s until the mid-1990s, to exert absolute authority on the Irish Question in Washington DC through the vehicles of the Four Horsemen - Senator Edward Kennedy, House Speaker Thomas 'Tip' O'Neill, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and New York governor Hugh Carey - and, later, the Friends of Ireland caucus, who in turn exercised their influence on successive US presidents.
Attempts by the British to circumvent Hume's agenda, and by supporters of the Provisional IRA (including a contingent of US congressmen), all failed.
For the most part, the policy of successive Irish governments reinforced Hume's efforts. On the rare occasions when members of an Irish government defied Hume's authority in Washington - as when Charlie Haughey sent Brian Lenihan to dissuade Tip O'Neill from supporting the Anglo-Irish Agreement - they were rebuffed.
Hume's credibility gave him a unique position to determine political strategy in Ireland. On the basis of the UK and Irish governments' new departure with the Anglo-Irish Agreement, he used his position to enter dialogue with Gerry Adams.
On Thursday past, reflecting on the genesis of those private conversations, Adams wrote that Hume "knew that republicans were not criminals or gangsters but serious people". The words of a dead man are modified in the guts of the living? What Hume actually said, in 1986, was that the Provos "conduct themselves with a savagery that is medieval".
The IRA, contrary to its proclaimed identity, had become a brutalising agent against the Northern minority, which Hume and his family repeatedly experienced. He maintained then that if he were to "lead a civil rights campaign in Northern Ireland today the main target would be the IRA".
Yet denunciations and expressions of disgust were never sufficient for Hume. Hence the risk he took in speaking to Adams. He saw that Adams by the mid-1980s had understood the futility of the violent campaign. In a letter to Adams, he urged that a fallacy that dogged violent republicanism was that its "methods have become more sacred than the cause".
The essence of the Hume-Adams dialogue is contained in a joint formulation that resulted from their talks: "Self-determination is a matter for agreement between the people of Ireland."
This nugget runs opposed to the entire strategy of the Provisional IRA's campaign; it sits perfectly well with what Hume had publicly advocated from 1964 onwards.
I think it was Thucydides who said that civil wars happen when those who attempt to defend the middle ground are destroyed. At stake in impugning Hume's integrity for speaking to Adams was the destruction of the middle ground towards which Hume was determined to shepherd Sinn Féin.
Antagonists of Hume at that time bear a heavy responsibility for jeopardising the nucleus of what became the peace process, which latterly they are apt to laud. Journalists who then wrote for this newspaper are among the principal culprits.
Similarly, An Phoblacht had long since chorused, in scarcely printable language, about Hume's "treachery".
Yet it was precisely because Hume refused to betray the electorate - to deceive them with hollow slogans and unrealisable objectives - that he had such success. Nor did he deceive them about realistic methods of achieving political gains: Hume never could have opened the doors he did in Washington or Brussels if he had.
It cannot be emphasised strongly enough how far Hume and other members of the first generation of the Northern minority to receive mass education (the 1947 Education Act) had to come.
They were explicitly debarred from political power and fair representation. Their reality was unemployment, poverty and defeat. As Seamus Mallon put it: "Derry made John and to a considerable extent John made Derry."
More than anyone, Hume dismantled the nightmarish political and economic structures of Derry. He worked on cross-community initiatives - starting with his commitment to establish a university in Derry - and on bringing inward investment.
Hume's legacy has become a body of opinion. His strategy and language have entered the body politic in our island in a most irreversible way. This language is surely one of the most lasting legacies of a man who once said that "one day we will understand the words we use".
It is a language that we must apply in our immediate future. The deeper political unity on the island of Ireland that seems more inevitable with each passing month, cannot happen without a subtle political process, patient planning and mutual respect.
The national discussion about Hume's legacy over the past week suggests that he, and the politics he espoused, will indeed occupy the place in history they richly deserve.
Hume's legacy forms a stay against the concerted attempt to revise history. That revisionism involves emphasising the Troubles' last stage and obfuscating the political options available in 1973-4; appropriating and distorting the ideals of the civil rights movement's noble record; justifying the campaign of terror during the Troubles despite its self-evident futility.
Proper consideration of the political life of John Hume thoroughly refutes those falsehoods and enables a fuller and authentic discussion about recent Irish history, with Hume at its very centre.
Successful political figures become historical figures by securing one or two major and enduring achievements. Just as Daniel O'Connell's shade is ever associated with establishing suffrage in Ireland, so Parnell's legacy is bound up with the reversion of land to the Irish and his very nearly delivering Home Rule. Will 'The Liberator' and 'The Uncrowned King' now be joined by 'The Peacemaker'?
Hume owed a debt to the tradition of constitutional nationalism, but he significantly augmented it. He managed, as no Irish leader had before, to unleash the only political power in the world that could move the UK government on the Irish Question.
US pressure shattered the UK's position that Northern Ireland was an internal matter and irrevocably recognised it as a joint Irish-UK concern.
Hume did this in the belief that Northern Ireland had been created through a failure of the UK and Ireland to confront the colonial past, and that a role for the US was a necessary linchpin to create new political structures. Judged by those achievements, Hume's place in our history is secure.
Maurice Fitzpatrick is the director and producer of the documentary John Hume in America and author of the book John Hume in America: From Derry to DC
John Hume was used to speaking in parliamentary venues worldwide, yet also made time to speak to schoolchildren. He was being ferried to one such engagement in Thornhill College in his hometown in 1999 by his staff member Ronan McCay in a Ford Fiesta, which had acquired a big dent in the driver's door. McCay recalls being "mortified" at the state of his car when he pulled into the grounds, as a crowd had gathered outside. "John didn't care one bit," he recalls. Just before he got out of the car, he asked McCay to reach into the back seat and pass him a tattered supermarket plastic bag. Inside, in its box, was the Nobel Peace Prize medal awarded to him a year earlier.
My first vote in an election was for John Hume. It is a big step when you cast your ballot for the first time - a sign that you are now truly a grown-up with a say (and not just a stake) in how your society is run.
Republicans may once have plotted to kill John Hume, and even tried to burn the former SDLP leader's wife and daughter alive when they were alone at the family's home in the Bogside, but they were given another predictable free pass last week when the Nobel Peace Prize winner's death was announced. In the IRA's case, it would apparently be rude to bring up the past.
Aengus Fanning - the editor of the Sunday Independent when John Hume first approached the IRA - believed in free speech and was not a fan of group-think. There was certainly a lot of group-think in the media at the time, with many journalists becoming peace process fans and abandoning their critical faculties.