Eulogy of John Hume by Fionnuala Connolly, Chair of the Northern Irish Committee of the FBLS

Eulogy of John Hume by Fionnuala Connolly, Chair of the Northern Irish Committee of the FBLS:

In Northern Ireland, we are mourning the loss of a truly great Irishman, John Hume, who died in the early hours of Monday 3 August 2020. Utterly committed to non-violence, John was widely regarded across the political spectrum in Ireland, North and South, as a peacemaker, his work instrumental to the peace process that ultimately led to the Good Friday Agreement.

My family and in particular my late father were privileged to know John and his wife Pat and family as family friends. We enjoyed holidays in the South of France over several summers in the 1980s. Throughout the Troubles, my late father gave quiet counsel to John during the most tumultuous times in Northern Ireland. Little did we realise at the time as we did our homework in the kitchen, that next door in the dining room, the beginnings of the Good Friday Agreement were starting to come together. And as the Troubles worsened during the 1980s, John consistently repeated the importance of peaceful dialogue and respect for difference at every opportunity in order to achieve agreement that ‘earns the allegiance of both sides and all parties’. His vision for a peaceful resolution which respect the diversity of all people in Northern Ireland was breathtaking.

During the Troubles, lawyers and members of the judiciary and their family members in Northern Ireland were tragically killed. Members of the Bar of Northern Ireland have told me how they had to huddle in the old Bar Library in Belfast as bombs went off in the 1970s and 1980s, not sure if they would get home safely to their homes that evening. And today, lawyers throughout Northern Ireland can practice their profession in peace and comfort. It is thanks to the enormous achievements of John Hume that this is the case. John suffered from dementia and blindness over the past number of years. Had he enjoyed his full faculties and abilities, I have no doubt that he would have been fully engaged in the Brexit debates. A Europhile and Francophile at heart (he spoke fluent French), he would have fully appreciated the work of the FBLS not only in relation to the richness that the Society brings to Northern Ireland lawyers but also beyond our own borders. He would have thoroughly enjoyed the profound observations on Brexit that President Ian Forrester spoke about with Sir David Edward and Advocate General Eleanor Sharpston and all of the other eminent speakers during the recent FBLS Brexit webinars. At his funeral on Wednesday, his son John said that his father would ‘talk about our common humanity, the need to respect diversity and difference, to protect and deepen democracy, to value education, and to place non-violence at the absolute centre’.

John’s Nobel Peace Prize speech in Oslo in 1998 is available on the this publicaiton in the Derry Journal.

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