John Hume, often known as the “architect of the peace process” who vowed to spill sweat not blood, has retired from political life. His announcement came weeks after his opponent, the Democratic Unionist leader Rev. Ian Paisley, said that he was retiring. At 67 years old, Hume has suffered ongoing health problems since 1999.
Hume, a founding member of the SDLP (Social Democratic and Labor Party) served as a member of the European Parliament for 25 years. He entered politics on the civil rights platform in the 1960s and became the deputy leader of the SDLP in 1973. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, alongside David Trimble, in 1998 for their part in the Good Friday Agreement. Hume worked as a moderate nationalist reaching out to include Sinn Féin in the political process of the recent era. Paradoxically it was the success of this process which enhanced the profile of Sinn Féin as a serious political force and increased its electoral appeal at the expense of his own party, the SDLP.
“True republicanism is real agreement between Protestant and Catholic, and real mutual respect, not victory by one side over the other,” said Hume, upon his retirement. Succeeding him, Mark Durkan has taken over as SDLP leader. ♦