John Hume: Irish peacemaker. Discuss.

John Hume: Irish peacemaker. Discuss.
by Allan Leonard for Northern Ireland Foundation
15 December 2015

Sean Farren and Denis Haughey have edited a new book, John Hume: Irish Peacemaker, published by Four Courts Press. As part of this book launch, there is a series of panel discussions, for which this event took place at the Canada Room, Queen’s University Belfast.

Moderated by Jim Fitzpatrick, the panellists were Arthur Aughey, Marianne Elliott, Maurice Hayes and Eamon Phoenix.

After a welcome by Sean Farren, outgoing Queens University Chancellor, Tony Gallagher, told the audience of a hundred that John Hume is the most iconic figure of Irish politics. Mr Gallagher made comparisons with Daniel O’Connell (whose orientation was Dublin/Ireland) and Charles Stewart Parnell (Westminster), while Mr Hume’s reference point is Europe and the lessons of two world wars and its reconstruction project.

With an appropriate anecdote of his own experience attempting, and succeeding, to gain entry to a White House hosted St Patrick’s Day reception of dignitaries (Ireland’s Foreign Minister to the rescue!), Mr Fitzpatrick invited each panellist to give a brief summary of their interpretation of Mr Hume’s contribution to politics.

Maurice Hayes discussed the significance of the 1973 Sunningdale Agreement, during which he served as senior civil servant in Northern Ireland. Mr Hayes said that one lesson for Mr Hume was that power sharing, of any type, requires the cooperation of the Unionist population; one can’t impose shared power.

However, Mr Hayes said that the inclusion and insistence on the element of a Council of Ireland — and with John Hume and Garret Fitzgerald (then Irish Foreign Affairs Minister) presenting a concerted effort in this regard — saddled Northern Ireland Prime Minister, Brian Faulkner, with more weight than he could handle, particularly in relation to Unionist cooperation.

Positively, Mr Hayes reflected how the Executive that resulted from the Sunningdale Agreement did have a “common purpose” and collective responsibility. Decisions were made consensually; there were few votes.

But as power and legitimacy went from the elected to the unelected, with the fallout after the collapse of the Sunningdale Agreement, achieving cross-community agreement would be more difficult, but that Mr Hume “bore with it”.

Eamon Phoenix provided a historical context of John Hume, a form of early years’ biography, as a suggestion to his character and outlook. First and perhaps foremost, unlike other leading northern Irish nationalists before him, Mr Hume came from “the achilles heal” of the Northern Ireland state, Derry-Londonderry.

And Mr Hume was greatly influenced by his docker father, who found himself out of work and once said to his son, “You can’t eat a flag,” in response to others blustering about partition.

John Hume got very much involved in the credit union movement, addressing both Hibernian clubs and Orange halls about the importance of saving.

But Unionist politics continued to disappoint him. A key moment was the decision in 1965 not to grant Derry-Londonderry with university status, even with wide local support, including the Unionist Mayor, Albert Anderson.

As Dr Phoenix explained, this primed Mr Hume for evermore direct political engagement, with his well known involvement in the civil rights campaign, which led to “more reforms in 40 days than anti-partitionists and the Republic had managed in 40 years”.

Marianne Elliott mooted whether John Hume is the “common name of Irishman”, referencing Wolfe Tone regularly. She argued that, like Wolfe Tone, Mr Hume can be viewed as an evolving contradiction of Irish nationalism.

This was demonstrated with examples of Mr Hume’s engagements with British Government ministers, Northern Ireland Prime Minister Brian Faulkner, and fellow Irish constitutional nationalists. In the last, he said in an 1964 article in the Irish Times: “If you are a constitutional nationalist, then you need to recognise the constitution of the country [Northern Ireland].” This was exemplified by Irish nationalists arguing for equal rights as being British citizens.

Arthur Aughey contributed a unionist critique of John Hume, while recognising the stateman’s talents. “Why don’t we have someone like him?” a unionist of the day might have asked.

With reference to ATQ Stewart, Professor Aughey clarified that the Irish nationalist objective in the 1960s wasn’t to get to know Unionists better, but to change them. Combined with the thinking that Unionist politics was pathological, then it was rationalised by others that Unionists “needed to be forced to be free”. Ergo the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement.

Prof. Aughey concluded that now many tend to marginalise the contributions by John Hume, the SDLP and all constitutional Irish nationalists. He argued that the achievement of peace goes beyond the journeys of ex-combatants/ex-prisoners, to the efforts of “constitutional citizens”.

The subsequent audience discussion covered the significance of the European dimension to Northern Ireland’s peace, the pivotal moment of the Hume-Adams Talks, and whether any Unionist politician got on well with John Hume.

Maurice Hayes explained Mr Hume’s pursuit of European intervention, in his determination to change the context of the Northern Ireland question. Dr Phoenix added that Mr Hume wanted to remove trade borders, within Ireland as well as across Europe.

In regards to Sinn Fein’s entry into the peace process, Mr Hayes and Prof. Elliott made the familiar refrain that one does not make peace with one’s friends, but with who is doing the fighting. Dr Phoenix provided the context of the Enniskillen bomb and Sinn Fein’s President, Gerry Adams’s speech at the time, seeking a way out of the violence; John Hume reached out. Prof. Elliott added that elected representatives from Sinn Fein participating in local government councils “behaved better” than the party’s unelected spokespersons. Also, she said, when the news broke out about the Hume-Adams Talks, “It was at a time when no one knew where to go”; there was a need to break the mould. Prof. Aughey said that this felt like “a double whammy” for Unionists (combined with the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement), as well as a shock for some within the SDLP itself.

Prof. Elliott said that she was surprised by the level of public hatred by Unionists towards John Hume, which appeared more vitriolic than that expressed against Gerry Adams. But she also referenced the constructive engagements with Brian Faulkner and other Unionist ministers of the 1973 Executive.

One pertinent moment that demonstrates this enmity, though, was the 1975 Constitutional Convention. Dr Phoenix reminded us of the boycott by all Unionists on the day when John Hume made his presentation; he spoke to empty benches. Mr Hayes recalled Mr Hume’s speech at the time, quoting him, “One day we will understand the words that we use.”

To conclude the event, co-editor Denis Haughey explained the motivation for the book: “We were determined that John Hume’s legacy should not be misrepresented.” Mr Haughey added that the definition of a great man is one who pursues a vision, which when realised transforms the way we live. He declared John Hume as a great man.

Furthermore, Mr Haughey continued, Mr Hume invited the language of peace that we speak, “Hume speak”.

So while John Hume could be criticised for his unilateral actions, what he was doing was changing the context, participants and language to be applied for peace.

In this way, John Hume is undeniably an Irish peacemaker.



The book has been produced by Sean Farren and Denis Haughey. The foreword of the book is from President Bill Clinton and includes a series of contributions from Paul Arthur, Arthur Aughey, Austin Currie, Seán Donlon, Mark Durkan, Marianne Elliott, Cathy Gormley-Heenan, Maurice Hayes, Pat Hume, Brigid Laffan, David McKittrick, Seán O’Huiginn, Éamon Phoenix and Nancy Soderberg.

The editors were two of John Hume’s closest SDLP colleagues. Both served as ministers in the first partnership administration in Northern Ireland following the 1998 agreement. Seán Farren is the author of The SDLP – the struggle for agreement in Northern Ireland, 1970–2000 (2010).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

, ,

  • Robin Keogh

    Hume is the uncrowned king of Ireland. Had his voice been listened to decades ago we would never have seen the devastation of the troubles. Unionism rejected his appeals for fairness and equality eventually leading to the collapse of irish sociey in the six counties. If ever a politician was to become the darling of historians, it is John Hume. Forever will be.

  • babyface finlayson

    Yes if ever a man deserved to enjoy his later years it is surely Hume.
    Very sad that dementia is robbing him of that pleasure.
    Further proof that if God exists he cares nothing for us!

  • aquifer

    He deserves a big share of the credit for the progress made by the Catholic community in Northern Ireland. Ushering in the peace earlier rather than later was an act of humanity and generosity, and let Sinn Fein IRA play their hand well, and before the British got to mark more of the pack. In that respect I see him as more Nationalist than Socialist, but a political class act, and he saved many lives.

  • Robin Keogh

    There is no God. And if there is then he or she is nothing more than an evil koont ! Yes Hume is sure being robbed. He should be able to sit back in these years and enjoy the warmth of everybodies gratitude.

  • Turgon

    I think that is fair: he was the uncrowned king of Ireland. He came remarkably close to destroying the political position of the unionist population of Northern Ireland. That he failed was more his misfortune than any error in his strategy.

    He never advocated violence but repeatedly rescued its advocates and practitioners from the abyss created by their own murderousness. He then used that violence mercilessly to advance his own side’s tribal position happy to destroy his own political party in the process, provided it advanced his tribal side’s position.

    He was first and foremost a narrow sectarian tribal chieftain: a king of his tribe in all but name.

  • John Collins

    Several constitutional Irish Politicians like Parnell and Paisley for example have flirted with the men of violence while studiously condemning violence itself. They kind of went on the principle of ‘well I am awful but look at the crowd that are outside the door’. Apart from that are there not a whole of Politicians in NI who are not narrow and sectarian. As regards talking to Sinn Fein did not the GB and even the DUP end up speaking to them after, in the very same way the GB Government of 1921 ending up speaking to Michael Collins and many other ‘terrorists’. Of course Major and even Thatcher had at least opened lines of communication with SF even before Blair was ever in Government.

  • Robin Keogh

    Happy to destroy his own party ? Happy? Really?
    I understand where u are coming from.
    Its difficult for some unionists to accept that an Irish nationalist, a Catholic from Derry, could be so feted, so adored, so respected and so highly regarded internationally. Difficult because no Unionist Leader has ever or could ever enjoy such a position.

  • Mer Curial

    Strange how people such as yourself who come out with this sort of bile and demonisation of a good man are blind to the sectarianism within the political leaders of their own communities.
    To reasonable outsiders it makes Northerners look completely insane.

  • Niamh

    Be kind to Turgon, he at least offers an honest opinion that goes some way to explaining why Unionism never produced even a pale imitation of John Hume.
    It’s hard to break new ground when fighting a rearguard action.

  • gendjinn

    He spent over 30 years fighting to achieve his aims of peace and equality in Northern Ireland, and succeeded in both. I’d say his position alongside O’Connell & Parnell is assured.

    Imagine what Northern Ireland could have been had Unionists been willing to work Sunningdale with Hume & the SDLP in the 70s?

  • Gingray

    🙂 Well, would not expect anything other than this vitriol from you Turgon.

    Thankfully you are, as usual these days, wrong – this narrow sectarian tribal chieftain quite often got Unionist votes, either as an MP for Foyle, or as an MEP, and in both roles he represented all his constituents. Polls show that he had high favourability scores within the Unionist community.

    Its a pity that you take such an unchristian attitude, but I suppose that should be expected. I imagine if Jesus was alive and among us today you would find a way to attack him too.

    “”Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
    “Whoever is without sin among you, let him be the first to cast a stone at her.”

  • Tochais Siorai

    ‘Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?’

  • Anglo-Irish

    Well I try – if not always successfully – to be reasonable, and I’m an outsider and I’m certainly of the opinion that a section of Northerners are insane.

    Not a majority, but unfortunately too large of a minority.

    You’re correct in that many people who prefer not to take an interest in NI tend to dismiss the situation by the easy option of assuming incurable madness running rampant throughout the land.

    John Hume is a great man and a credit to his race, the human race

    His present health problem simply proves there is no such thing as fairness in this world.

  • SDLP supporter

    “…a narrow sectarian tribal chieftain…”. Really, Turgon? It’s not just the Provos who are furiously attempting to re-write recent Irish history. If sectarianism is the poisonous pollution of politics with religion, then Hume is as far from sectarianism as you can get. As the Belfast Telegraph editorial said on his retirement, there wasn’t a sectarian bone in his body. It was Hume who repeatedly pointed out throughout the awful seventies and eighties, when some were propounding the ‘why don’t the Prods go back to Scotland?’ ploy, that the Ulster Protestant had been in Ireland longer than the white man had been in North America. It was Hume who said that Sunningdale was a full and final settlement of his political demands. It was Hume who at the Darlington talks offered Paisley and West that if they agreed to power-sharing for one term, one term, they could revert to majority rule: he was gambling that those arrogant, obdurate bigots would realise the benefits of power-sharing after seeing it work for a few years in practice. It was Hume’s most brilliant achievement, the 1985 Anglo Irish Agreement, which destroyed the arrogance of the unionist position that, while the integrity of the position that NI’s constitutional position could only change with majority consent was fully accepted by him, that did not mean they could for ever more have a veto on the development of positive political relations between the other 60 million plus people on these islands.
    As was pointed out on Tuesday night (excellent and accurate account BTW, Allan) unionism of the time, in its sheer lack of generosity, feared and hated Hume in a way they never did Gerry Adams because they never had any protagonist remotely approaching his intellectual calibre. Hume exposed the hypocrisy at the heart of intransigent unionism: Paisley at the end of his days saying he agreed with the NICRA analysis and Jim Allister saying that, really, in his days in the DUP he was in favour of power-sharing with the SDLP.
    Just in relation to the Robin Keogh post, he is probably too young to remember the Eamonn McCann quip in 1998–and he was no fan of Hume, being the gutty that he is-that when Hume/Trimble won the Nobel Prize, Trimble must have felt like the man who won the lottery without buying a ticket.

  • Jollyraj

    Have you ever challenged Sinn Fein on their failure to listen to the voice of John Hume then, since by your reasoning they opted instead for the decades of devastation of the troubles?

  • Alan N/Ards

    Brian Faulkner and other unionists did work the Sunningdale Agreement. That fact should not be ignored. The anti democratic UWC strike scuppered the deal but those unionists who tried to play their part should be given credit for trying to make it work.

  • submariner

    Just WOW ! A member / supporter of the TUV referring to Ireland’s greatest living Irishman in those terms is a bit like an alcoholic lecturing a pioneer about the evil of drink. You could not make this up.

  • Twilight of the Prods

    Turgon and Robin

    I’d disagree with Turgon’s assessment overall – but having lived through that period, I can see where it is coming from for a couple of reasons:
    1/ Hume was more interested in reaching past Unionists via Irish America, and the Irish and British governments. Unionism of the 1970s did much to develop that response, but it wasnt helpful for Unionists in understanding his position in the 1980s. And I think in the long term Unionism did mis-interpret his position.

    2/Both Unionism and Republicanism thought that the SDLP was cashing political capital based on IRA violence. He was, in the sense that the British and Irish rushed to put a cap on shinner support by giving concessions to constiutitional nationalism.

    3/His policy through the 1980s to early 90s looked like a push for joint authority – not for power sharing and a significant Irish dimension. Have a look at sdlp policy docs of the 80s and early 90s, and negotiating papers for the Brooke talks. Now that could have been interpreted as a negotiating position, but given his preference for reaching past Unionists, and British/Irish responsiveness to same (and a British Labour policy of gradual unification) – it looked like something much more – a nationalist priority.

    4/ He was poor at communicating with Unionists, preferring the single transferable speech that was geared to an external audience.

    5/ A fundamental misinterpretation was around Hume Adams. Unionists read it as the coalescing of a tribal pan nationalist alliance, that would see a conveyor belt of concessions flow from the threat of republican violence (and partial legitimation of same). It wasnt. Hume was dragging and manouvreing SF into an SDLP political space at the cost of his political party.

    So he was misread by Unionists, but it wasnt entirely their fault. They were looking at everything with Anglo Irish Agreement glasses, and had ultimately misread the Agreement as a threat to the Union. The proof that Hume was a more accomodating figure lies in the fact that the SDLP bought into an Irish dimension and power sharing which was a world away from joint authority. He could talk about ‘lancing the unionist boil’ – what he said often didnt make a lot of sense; but what he did, could make sense. And what he did was make the irish dimension non threatening and consensual – that was the boil he helped lance.

    Robin- sincere kudos to you for recognising Hume. I’m pretty much in the same place. You would have ended up bloodied in a sheuch if you’d said the same back then. I’d have just ended up ostracised. You are some measure of proof that the modern shinner activist in the 26 is rather a different beastie to what we still have up here.

  • Alan N/Ards

    I was not trying to make Faulkner into some kind of saint but he was willing to share power with Hume etc. The fact that it fell, is not something that unionism ( in my eyes) should be proud of.

  • Dan

    The most overrated politician on the planet.

  • Anglo-Irish

    I hadn’t realised that Hume had made that offer at the Darlington talks.

    That was a huge and magnanimous offer, and one that shows that he held a far more generous and kindly opinion of humanity than a cynic like myself.

    The fact that it was turned down says everything about the unionist ‘ not an inch ‘ mindset.

    It also goes to support my more cynical attitude, but I wish it wasn’t so and there were more genuine people such as John Hume involved in politics.

  • Robin Keogh

    Hume had to reach past Unionism because Unionism of the day had absolutely no interest in the concerns of constututional nationalism. so disengaged were they and so aggressive was their response to reason, physical force Republicanism was reborn. The rest is history, as they say. Unionism has always blamed lundies, london, Dublin, nationalism, Republicanism, america and others for any and all problems. Never has it honestly or admirably looked within and reviewed its catastrophic failures. Hume, and Adams pulled unionism out of its self destructive supremecy only because the involvment of outside forces left no alternative. Reaching Past Unionism was and probably still is the only way to move this contry forward.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Accepting the fact that you are trolling, but just for a laugh, perhaps you would like to provide us with the name of a politician coming from another God forsaken troublesome nonentity of a place, who made more of a contribution to the future of his/her place of birth than John Hume?

    I await with baited breath.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    “He came remarkably close to destroying the political position of the unionist population of Northern Ireland”
    Which position?

  • Turgon

    It is interesting that many of the plaudits here for Hume as an international statesman etc. simply reinforce the fact that he owed his rise to such supposed status almost entirely to terrorist violence.

    Without the murderous antics of the terrorists he would have been what he was: the leader of a minority political position in a peripheral region of the UK. A leader who spent years tediously pushing the same message. A message which only retained currency whilst the terrorists were murdering people or threatening to return to it.

    He needed terrorism especially IRA terrorism to obtain all these international plaudits and to overcome the majority position in Northern Ireland against Northern Ireland becoming part of the RoI.

    He may not have climbed to power over the bodies of his victims the way the likes of Adams and McGuinness did: rather he laid a carpet over the corpses so arranged by the IRA and walked over that.

  • submariner

    You really do have a nasty streak and a penchant for writing absolute nonsense. I suspect if you put your piece to an international audience of those who knew and worked with Hume they would either be astounded by the bitterness oozing from it or else collapse in uncontrolled fits laughing.

  • submariner

    Trimble must have felt like the man who won the lottery without buying a ticket.

    Probably one of the best sentences ive seen on Slugger.

  • the rich get richer

    He probably did learn from british methods around the world. It would be very hard not too be influenced by such methods while witnessing them in action in so many parts of the world.

  • Reader

    gendjinn: Without those two O’Neill’s reforms would have gone ahead and the Trouble avoided.
    O’Neill’s reforms did go ahead at the end of 1968. Nearly enough for NICRA, not enough for PD, and nowhere near enough for the IRA.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Let me get this straight, the Troubles were brought about by a combination of an unfair sectarian state, UVF overreaction to the possible concessions that the civil rights movement might make, and the PIRA joining in taking advantage of the situation and making matters worse, simplified overview but not too far off the mark, yes?

    At that point what exactly had John Hume done to bring this tragedy about?
    In what way did he need terrorism, in the same way that George Mitchell needed it, otherwise we’d never have heard of him either, is that what you mean?

    Hume set about attempting to reconcile the situation and was opposed in that aim by the PUL faction.

    What was the objective of the opposing sides? John Hume wanted peace which he believed could only be brought about by equality between the two communities, without that PIRA would always have some support.

    What did the PUL side want, what was their objective?

    To maintain the status quo, to continue with a gerrymandered state guaranteeing the PUL community hegemony.

    Any concession to ‘themuns’ viewed as a loss, no consideration given to the fact that equality was the norm throughout the rest of the UK.

    The PUL community want to regard themselves as British but do not want to accept British values when it interferes with their inbred bigotry.

    Name me one single member of the unionist political class that could be regarded with the same respect as John Hume.

  • babyface finlayson

    Every prominent politician is defined by the world around them. You are putting him in a no win situation:either a parochial non-entity or someone who achieved prominence through the deaths of others.
    He was instrumental in bringing about the (albeit imperfect) peace we have now and he deserves credit for that. He did not create the situation and I have seen no evidence from you that he was cynically using the violence to promote his own status.
    No saint perhaps but hardly the self serving Machiavelli you imply.

  • tmitch57

    I. William Zartman, an American Africanist and specialist in mediation and conflict resolution wrote that three preconditions were necessary to creating a condition of ripeness for conflict resolution in both civil wars and international conflicts:
    1) That the actual parties to the conflict be represented;
    2) That a hurting stalemate exist militarily, preferably with the potential in the long run for a reversal of the balance of power between the two or more sides;
    3) That a formula for a solution exist.

    Sunningdale violated the first principle. Hume then also attempted to violate it by by-passing the unionist population and going over their heads to Dublin (New Ireland Forum), London (Anglo-Irish Agreement), Brussels, and Washington (Friends of Ireland). It was only when Hume realized that this would not work that he began the Hume-Adams talks with the Sinn Fein leadership. It took Adams and his colleagues until 1992 for them to realize that there was a military stalemate and that time was actually working against them. At this point Hume and Adam brought in Dublin and Reynolds brought in Major. Slowly the conflict has been resolving itself once there were two changes of leadership among the unionists: from Molyneaux to Trimble and from Trimble to Paisley and Robinson.

    In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict similar epiphanies occurred among the PLO in the late 1980s and then with Yitzhak Rabin in 1992-93. But the Oslo process failed because Arafat faced a political opposition among the Palestinians that was opposed to peace instead of supportive of it and the Likud never went through a change of ideology as occurred with the DUP following the IRA’s decommissionig in 2005.

    Turgon, of course Hume was a narrow tribalist–so was Trimble. But without this tribal orientation their tribes would not have trusted them and peace would have been impossible.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Some of them now have the nerve to demand an opposition and voluntary government now. They seem to only be happy to be in a coalition where they are a part of.

  • Kevin Breslin

    And David Trimble in turn opposed Faulkner, and Ian Paisley opposed Trimble who was opposed by Peter Robinson.

    So I think it’s obvious Jamie Bryson will be our First Minister soon. 😀

  • Kevin Breslin

    Never thought I’d appreciate McCann’s vitriol being used in good humour.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Complete nonsense.

    So let me get this straight, when he was successful John Hume was milking IRA violence for political capital and when he was unsuccessful he was sacrificing his party for the sake of Sinn Féin.

    I think a lot of people cannot come to terms that Political Unionism founded from Militant Loyalism and Militant Irish Republicanism didn’t have the solution to everything.

    Completely sectarian to believe that Unionism only represented Democracy and Republicanism only represented Violence. This dogma was used against the Alliance party because they were pushed as Terrorist Sympathizers because a the absence of piece of cotton.

    Both these groups were internally fighting while the SDLP was using democracy to let the people get involved in the process.

    We shouldn’t need a dogmatic pseudo religious worship Ulster Covenant and the Orange Traditions, or concessions from the British/Irish or guns and bombs to solve all of this region’s problems.

    The big problem I guess many people had with the SDLP is that they didn’t find the solutions to the situation in early 20th Century dogmas or much earlier, but at least tried something original.

    Northern Ireland had completely lost its agency under direct rule, and thank heavens there was the Good Friday Agreement to ensure enough came back to put a stop gap in the Brain Drain.

    “It’s Your Decision” … Not an “Army Council”, Not a British or Irish concession, Not some pseudo Zionist act of God that Ulster should be the most brattish form of Britishness forever!

    Our political elites have always been suspicious of genuine acts of grassroots agency and would rather a “culture” or a “nation” dominates the picture, rather than a “freedom” to alter the very definition of either.

    Everyone else but the SDLP had their go at trying to fix this situation, where are their successes?

  • Catcher in the Rye

    The idea that Hume is responsible for the peace is one of the enduring myths of the modern day political process. It is sickening to people who remember the actual history.

    Hume resisted power sharing at every possible turn when he became SDLP leader. Instead he fought for joint authority, the first step of which was the Anglo Irish Agreement. He lost – the Anglo Irish Agreement was dismantled as part of the Good Friday Agreement. The GFA was not Hume’s victory – it was his defeat, and this would later translate into the SDLP’s defeat at the behest of Sinn Féin, exactly the outcome the IRA had intended to bring about.

    As several detailed studies on the subject indicate (such as Ed Moloney’s “Secret History of the IRA”) the IRA’s decision to end violence dates back to the 1980s, and they had already decided to call their ceasefire long before Hume became involved.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    O’Neill was prevented from making the reforms that he wanted to make, that were necessary

    This is not true.

    The Housing Executive was created by the Unionist government, via the Housing Executive (Northern Ireland) Act 1971. It took housing powers away from local councils. The Housing Executive went out of its way to employ lots of Catholics, including in very senior positions, and bent over backwards to be scrupulously fair in allocating housing. It is largely regarded as a success and has survived almost untouched since then.

    The local government reform was introduced in 1972, again under Stormont. This introduced PR-STV and created rules preventing parties from abusing their majority status. This framework existed more or less unmodified until the recent local government reforms.

    Of course, all of this was done under duress when the British government began paying attention and threatening them with consequences. Nonetheless, it was done; and had it been done five years earlier, along with a few other measures, the troubles might have been avoided.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Hume contributed almost nothing except delaying the Good Friday Agreement by five years in order to suit the IRA.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    As the Belfast Telegraph editorial said on his retirement, there wasn’t a sectarian bone in his body.

    Strange then that the SDLP has no Protestants in it

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Everyone else but the SDLP had their go at trying to fix this situation, where are their successes?

    The situation is not “fixed”, and one of the other big problems with this lionising of Hume is the idea that he actually solved any problems.

  • Anglo-Irish

    How did he do that?

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t John Hume, Gerry Fitt and the SDLP in support of the Sunningdale agreement which was on offer 25 years before the Good Friday Agreement?

    Wasn’t it the ‘Loyalists’ who ended any hope of Sunningdale being implemented?

    Moreover, wasn’t the Sunningdale Agreement more favourable to ‘Loyalists’ than the Good Friday Agreement which is now inforce?

    Isn’t it true that if the ‘ Loyalists ‘ had accepted Sunningdale a quarter of a century of bloodshed could have been avoided, and they would be in a better position than they currently are?

    In fact ‘Loyalism’ is a great contender for the ‘Darwin Awards’ isn’t it?

  • Anglo-Irish

    They decided to end violence 28 years before they actually got around to it?

    John Hume helped to form the SDLP in 1970, and worked toward an agreed peaceful settlement from then on.

    Righty oh then.

  • Kevin Breslin

    oh I’m sorry Holden Caufeild, and what has been your lifetime achievement to the “big problems”?

    Did you work all your life at that cynical comment?

    If Ulster Unionism/Democratic Unionism had the solution why was it fighting itself?
    If Irish Republicanism/Ulster Resistance had the solution why was it fighting itself?
    If the Irish and British governments have the solution to this, why were local people protesting them?
    If anyone else was fighting for this harder than them, where were they?

    The SDLP’s attempt to fix this ensured a lot more people followed than would be the case if they weren’t there.

  • John Collins

    No Protestants in the SDLP. Well Ivan Cooper was one of its founders and he is a Protestant.

  • Granni Trixie

    In the early troubles an Englsh academic (Protestant) joined the SDLP ( was given a “Communications” role) but left as he found it “too green” for him ( or so he says).

  • SDLP supporter

    Absolute cobblers. In my own branch there is an observant English Quaker and several members of the Church of Ireland and Presbyterian churches, as well as a fair few people who I would imagine are not religious.

    In relation to a previous post you made, I had already pointed out that Hume had said that Sunningdale was a full and final settlement of his demands and he had repeatedly gone on record to say that trust could only be built up in NI by the parties working together in government, that is power-sharing. As far as I know, the only unionist who has gone on record to say that the unionist leadership “blew” it in 1974 was Ken Maginness.
    When people like David Thompson, a Presbyterian who is also an SDLP member who currently posts here, why do you post such hateful and stupid comments when they are so obviously wrong?

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Kevin, I assume that reply means that you cannot gainsay my original comment so you’re changing the subject to be about me. Yes ?

  • Catcher in the Rye

    This isn’t the first time you’ve had a go at Hume – what is your problem with the man?

    I have a problem with people circulating stories that are untrue.

    Now you’re advancing a fallacious Unionist trope to diminish and sideline the role Hume played in getting the peace process going.

    I am not a Unionist. You are welcome to point out the factual errors in anything I have said.

    Anyone who has actually read Moloney’s book knows that the PIRA did anything but decide on peace in the early 80s.

    I have read Maloney’s book as well as a number of others. The Provos knew by the time of the hunger strikes that the “struggle” could not be won militarily. Maloney’s book shows talks beginning in the 80s facilitated by Alex Reid and Charles Haughey.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    I don’t believe the troubles were inevitable; I actually agree that had O’Neill’s reforms come ten years earlier there’s every chance they would not have occurred at all.

    I’m taking issue with the technical detail of your claim that Stormont couldn’t deliver reform. It did, it just did so too late.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    yeah, the UUP used to claim they weren’t sectarian because they had a few Catholics around. They even have their own association and they often held up yer man John Gorman.

    I remember SDLP party election literature from the late 80s through the 90s. The policy was “an agreed Ireland”, powersharing wasn’t mentioned it. My own recollection at the time is that nationalists largely regarded powersharing as a failed experiment and that the unionists couldn’t be persuaded to implement it properly.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    jesus guys. Just because there are a few token Prods around does not get the party off the hook of being an exclusively Catholic party, focused on defending Catholic interests and promoting a united Ireland. Which is basically what it is.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Please list all of the occasions where Hume negotiated seriously with Unionists between 1974 and 1998.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t John Hume, Gerry Fitt and the SDLP in support of the Sunningdale agreement which was on offer 25 years before the Good Friday Agreement?

    The SDLP was led by Fitt at the time and Sunningdale came on the back of Fitt’s extensive working relationships with the Labour Party. But whose idea was it to make Sunningdale impossible by insisting on the Council of Ireland ?

    As for the rest of your comment – unionists are stupid. What else is new ?

  • Anglo-Irish

    Please list all of the occasions when Unionists attempted to negotiate with John Hume between those dates.

    Unionists were in the position of power and their attitude can basically be summed up as ” We like it as it is ” ” Croppy lie down ” and ” Not an inch “.

    Hume knew that in order to start the peace process rolling he had to do two things, firstly he needed something to bargain with and secondly he needed to bargain with someone who was interested in what he’d got.

    The bargaining chip was talks with PIRA and an agreement that they would listen if the terms were agreeable.

    What do you think the response would have been from Unionists ( even if he could have arranged for the different factions to listen as one ) if he had approached them with his suggestion?

    Unionists believed that state force would solve the problem – despite the evidence to the contrary – and were quite prepared for the situation to continue providing they got to keep the status quo in the end.

    So Hume approached the people that he knew wanted an end to the ongoing tragedy.

    He dealt with the British government who had accepted that no military solution was possible and wanted a conclusion.

    Unionist politicians were nothing but an encumbrance to any talks so Hume quite rightly sidestepped them as much as possible and dealt with the British and Irish governments and Sinn Fein.

    As you stated in your other reply to me, ” Unionists are stupid ” stupid people are best avoided wherever possible.

  • Anglo-Irish

    See my reply to your other post.

    Are you saying that unionists would have accepted Sunningdale other than for the Council of Ireland?

    Because that was not the impression that I got at the time.

  • John Collins

    I suppose they are a Nationalist party, who broadly speaking represent the views of constitutional nationalists. We have Alliance and the various Unionist parties present to represent all shades of loyalist opinion. It would be very sad indeed if SF, with their awful history, were the sole repository for all nationalist votes. It should also be noted that a small number of Protestants may feel a United Ireland may not be a bad thing and they could never vote SF.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    You accused me of advancing a Unionist trope, which is pretty much the same as calling me a Unionist. You’re saying I’m “entirely wrong” yet nobody has been able to actually provide facts that contradict my point.

    Please explain to me exactly what Hume’s part was in persuading rank and file IRA members (the “95%” you refer to) – who despised Hume, the SDLP, the Irish government and constitutional nationalism as a whole – that they should stop their campaign. I’ll bet you can’t.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Please list all of the occasions when Unionists attempted to negotiate with John Hume between those dates.

    They didn’t. Is the fact that Unionism played almost no role in trying to bring the troubles to an end over 40 years your only response to my criticisms of Hume ?

    Hume knew that in order to start the peace process rolling he had to do two things, firstly he needed something to bargain with and secondly he needed to bargain with someone who was interested in what he’d got.

    Here’s the problem.

    The “peace process” was already rolling. Hume did not seek the IRA out, as you portray. The IRA sought him out. They wanted someone who could help to make Gerry Adams look like a statesman.

    Reading the rest of your contributions you basically have no knowledge of what was actually going on within Northern Ireland during the 1980s.

    Firstly, Hume did not approach the IRA and ask them to call their campaign off. This is a lie. The IRA’s leadership were looking for a way out and for an established leading figure to lend credibility to Gerry Adams. They engaged Hume for this purpose. Hume’s job was to sell Sinn Féin.

    Secondly, your claims that the unionists were blocking everything and refused to talk are also a lie. The SDLP were involved in advanced negotiations with the Unionists in 1991-92. Other figures in the SDLP leadership, notably Mark Durkan and Seamus Mallon, had made significant progress on a devolution deal.

    Hume pulled the SDLP out of these talks and tore up the agreement that they had so far reached. It is almost certain that he was asked to do this by Gerry Adams.

    Hume was the IRA’s poodle. He wasn’t part of the “peace process” – the plan to bring the IRA’s armed campaign to an end – until the later stages when they were ready to actually roll with it. He played no role in persuading the IRA rank and file of anything – that was Gerry Adams and his close confidants in the IRA’s army council.

    So basically, you’re wrong.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    I’m saying that the Council of Ireland was successfully used by anti-agreement unionists to portray Sunningdale as a step to Irish reunification.

    Had it not been included within Sunningdale, things might have been different.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Nationalist = Catholic (to all intents and purposes). In Northern Ireland we love our euphemisms.

    Is my memory failing or do I seem to recall Alliance representatives being intimidated at their offices and out of their homes by loyalists ?

  • Catcher in the Rye

    You said ” And I’ve seen this BS advanced by Unionists in the north and the Blue Shirts in the south. And really no one else.”

    Am I part of the “no one else” then ?

  • Anglo-Irish

    ” Is the fact that Unionism played almost no role in trying to bring the troubles to an end in over 40 years your only response to my criticisms of Hume? “.

    No it isn’t, but even if it was it would be a hell of a point wouldn’t it?

    So you admit that Hume did more toward bringing about a peaceful solution than the entire unionist political parties combined and you still see fit to criticise him?

    Would you care to provide some evidence of the fact that Sinn Fein approached Hume rather than the other way around, because I can find nothing to back up that claim.

    ” Almost certain ” is pure speculation on your part and indicative of your bias.

    As Hume was a politician his role was to talk to other politicians such as the UK government, unionists and Sinn Fein. The idea that he should approach the hard men of the PIRA personally wasn’t an option, would you have expected him to hold talks with the UK security services and try to persuade them to lay down their arms?

    John Hume has been voted ‘ Ireland’s greatest ever person ‘ he has been honoured by receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, the Gandhi Peace Prize the Martin Luther King Award and the Pope made him a Knight Commander of the Papal Order of St Gregory the Great.

    Despite this you have little if any respect for the man and wish to disparage his reputation with nonsense such as ‘Hume was the IRA’s poodle.’

    Everyone else is wrong in their assessment from the man/woman in the street to the authorities, only you possess the insight to see through the charlatan that is John Hume.

    I do not claim to be an expert in the disaster which passes for normal life in your ‘wee country’ I am a self professed outsider.

    However, I can probably see as well as someone who is using only one eye and acknowledging only what agrees with their preconceived ideas.

  • Anglo-Irish

    So you are saying that the Unionist parties used it to prevent the agreement being signed and that if that one single element had been removed they would have signed up with a smile?

    According to that BBC link the Council of Ireland was originally agreed upon by the British and Irish governments and also by politicians from BOTH communities.

    Then there is a change of Executive in January 1974 and unionists then decide to reject what had previously been agreed to by all parties.

    In what convoluted way do you manage to blame John Hume for that?

    Paisley and his cohorts are the ones to blame for a further 25 years of violence, they have blood on their hands, John Hume does not.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I think Hume had his positive sides too and we shouldn’t overlook that – amidst a violent nationalist culture, he was a consistent voice for non-violence and that was essential. However, I otherwise agree – his choices during the height of the IRA campaign were wrong-headed and showed a very odd sense of moral priorities. He continued to press a narrative dominated by a sense of nationalist victimhood at a time when nationalists were responsible for the lion’s share of the violence that was tearing Northern Ireland apart. It was just wrong for the times he was in, he kept telling the story of 20, 30 years previously as if nothing had changed in the meantime. He never really addressed the responsibility of insistence united Ireland ideological goals for IRA violence.

    There were plenty of moments when he could have been transformative by reaching out a hand to unionists, but he always preferred the seeking of agreement within nationalism over the seeking of any accommodation with moderate unionists – his insistence on the Council of Ireland at Sunningdale, pulling out of the Assembly in the early 80s, the New Ireland Forum, his disgraceful behaviour over the AIA in 1985, his vetoing of the agreement reached between SDLP negotiators and UUP in Mayhew talks in early 90s when a deal was there.

    It’s hard not to think a fairer and more generous-minded leader of northern nationalism could have cut a deal with unionists much, much sooner than 1998. Refusing to do so during those years gave fuel and cover to the warped ‘victimhood’ narrative of the Republican Movement, though I accept Hume did not do this intentionally. He did do it with his eyes open though, as many of us were telling him as much at the time. He just wouldn’t listen.

    Unfortunately, his negative experiences with the worst of unionists in the 60s – all unionists should feel some shame for what was done in our name by those on the right of unionism back then – coloured him against the whole tribe. This included even the moderate and progressive voices, who were in reality both more astute and more even-handed than Hume was. Hume simply seemed to want to deal over the heads of anyone coming from a unionist viewpoint – he did not regard us as his equals, we were just wrong and to be corrected. Holding the ‘reasonable man’ chair within nationalism, this had a big negative impact. That approach held back the chances of agreement for many years and I feel cost Northern Ireland dear. But to be clear, I do completely accept it was unintentional on his part. I see him basically as a well-meaning obstruction to progress.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I have responded to the comments, we never saw any great alternatives from the other parties, the governments, or yourself to draw a successful comparison from.

    It remains a mystery why Hume didn’t do the most nobel hardworking gesture on the planet, complain that things weren’t fixed and complain their version of “fixed” is something they themselves as if they could credibly achieve such a thing themselves.

    It’s all very Zen, Holden.

  • Kevin Breslin

    What do you call an Irish man who networks outside of the insular reaches of Ireland to work with Europe, America, and the British government?

    A “narrow” tribalist.

    It’s an odd joke that is!

    I look forward to hearing what a “broad viewed” person or “anti-tribalist” is … must be a real total get up and go globalist!

    Is there anyone in politics anywhere in the universe who is heralded for broad non-tribalism in your opinion?

  • John Collins

    No change there. If they intimidate a middle of the road party members, like those of Alliance, it must really sicken their guts to see Sinn Fein in power.

  • Kevin Breslin

    But whose idea was it to make Sunningdale impossible by insisting on the Council of Ireland ?

    Erm … David Lloyd George when he proposed a Council of Ireland back in the Government of Ireland Act 1920.

    It was nationalism/republicanism in the form of Sinn Féin that destroyed it back then with the War of Independence.

    Effectively Unionism was choosing (old) Sinn Féin and the Irish government over the more local Northern Irish SDLP on this mater.

  • Kevin Breslin

    They would have found something else to oppose. Terence O’Neill was attacked for meeting Jack Lynch on the basis it would lead to Irish unity.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Yes, lets use that Euphemism… Every Catholic in Westminster from Andy Burnham, Angus MacNeil, Mike Hancock, John Pugh, Jacob Rees-Moog all the way up to Iain Duncan Smith is an Irish Nationalist, just like Mark Durkan and Martin McGuinness. The only reason why people care two hoots about religious interest in terms of the constitutional position of Ireland is because a united Ireland was split into a mainly Catholic part and a mainly Protestant part and people want to fight over which Christians are better at turning their other cheek.

  • Twilight of the Prods

    I’m coming at this a bit late Kevin; (and whilst testing out a shiny new tablet) but you do me an injustice. I never said any of the things you pull together in your reply. In some parts its missed my nuance (I state Hume was gifted concessions to stall sinn fein as a British and Irish strategy eg AIA – he wasnt milking IRA violence ); but in others your summary is clearly at right angles from my analysis of his legacy.

    You ask at the top of the post if you are ‘getting this straight’: To make this as clear as possible, I don’t hold any of the beliefs you’ve taken from the argument. And having re-read it, I dont believe I ever said them.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The only nationalist/republican organisations the UK government would be conceeding to by saying the SDLP mandate didn’t matter would be the likes of the Continuity IRA and Republican Sinn Féin. If the SDLP nor the UUP mandate didn’t matter neither did Sinn Féin’s and the UK government would not only have no ability to stall the rise of Sinn Féin, but no reason to either. Confined to Northern Ireland within the UK, Provisional Sinn Féin’s political sucess on a UK basis would be minor in comparison to say the National Front and the Blackshirts. They were no threat to overthrowing the UK. Because of the IRA, Sinn Féin will never command a “majority in the North” so there really was no logical reason to conceed anything to the SDLP in order to stop them

  • Kevin Breslin

    Hume didn’t have to persuade the IRA that their campaign was failing, the people who were voting for the SDLP over Sinn Féin did a very good job of that.

    Certainly unionism wasn’t making political capital of it in Catholic areas.

  • Kevin Breslin

    There’s a huge flaw in your arguement. If Hume and his supporters are IRA poodles Hume would have lost his seat to McGuinness, SDLP supporters would have joined the IRA and this place would be polarised entirely between “freedom fighters” and religious zealots in the DUP and lesser extent UUP who embraced the John Knox idea that the cause of the union was the cause of Protestantism, it would have effectively become or remained a sort of Palestine vs. Israel.

    Every effort has been made against Hume to link him with the men of violence. Well done if you’ve never planted a bomb, well done if you didn’t discriminate against a Catholic but as far as I am aware you have done nothing to work to bring people together, to stop the terror in our society or to keep the marginalised in our society away from the lure of the gun.

    Sinn Féin didn’t need the SDLP to win votes, they were getting fuel from the likes of Paisley and Thatcher and the loyalist paramilitariets. They milked the Hunger Strikes to dislodge Joe Hendron before there was any Hume Adams talks. They didn’t need John Hume to be political, the whole reason Adams took charge of the party was because the previous leaders were more concerned with violence than politics. They didn’t need to destroy the SDLP to find peaceful means of political success they could look at Nelson Mandela in South Africa. I’m not going to buy this arguement that Sinn Féin needed Hume to Kari Kari and give them political success, SDLP voters wanted the violence to end and needed Adams to stop it.

    Gerry Adams made himself a statesperson without Hume, he was stilled tied to the bullet and the ballot box strategy up until Hume Adams talks. Mandela showed you can go from terrorist to statesman. The SDLP rose to be the biggest party in Northern Ireland on the back of Hume-Adams, not Sinn Féin.

    Adams gave in to the SDLP demands for peace, Hume didn’t give into the O’Bradaigh demands for a war until unity is achieved.

    You are an armchair politician who has never knocked a door in his or her life, you barely have the inner peace to respect John Hume as a peacemaker. Whatever politics you stand for failed miserably because it relied on being laissez faire to the IRA and other republicans, laissez faire to loyalists and defenderism, laissez faire to paranoid roots of sectarianism, laissez faire for the tit for tat cycles of violence, laissez faire to collusion and the sins of the state, laissez faire to division within our society, laissez faire to families divided either by border or by sea, laissez faire to identity and culture, laissez faire to people hurt by the violence in their community, laissez faire to discrimination and gerrymandering, laissez faire to the real need for a Northern Ireland decided by its people for its people.

    The people who sat by like Nero and watched the place burn itself to the ground rather than make some effort to intervene shouldn’t be canonised the way that you seem to do. Of course you are probably so misanthropic you probably blame those guys as well in your crude generalisations.

  • John Collins

    And Gerry Fitt was attacked by the IRA decades ago and had to his own revolver to defend himself. Loyalists have also attacked non nationals in the North big time just to show their welcoming nature.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    I don’t like being misrepresented.

    It’s a common strategy in this part of the world to accuse someone of siding with themmuns in an effort to try to undermine the basis of their argument without dealing with the facts. That is what you did, and your childish hair-splitting attempts to deny this are comical.

  • Catcher in the Rye


    That’s a bizarre, and angry sounding rant.

    There’s a huge flaw in your arguement. If Hume and his supporters are IRA poodles Hume would have lost his seat to McGuinness, SDLP supporters would have joined the IRA and this place would be polarised entirely between “freedom fighters”

    I suggest you take this up with Seamus Mallon, who this morning has publicly confirmed my assessment of Hume’s behaviour.

    Adams gave in to the SDLP demands for peace,

    You seriously believe that one of the most brutal terrorist organisations in Europe was persuaded to stop killing people for no reason other than that the SDLP asked. I cannot help you.

  • Catcher in the Rye


    Stop pretending that you don’t know what I mean.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    What would they have found ?

  • Catcher in the Rye

    More strangeness. The Council of Ireland was abolished by the Unionists in 1925.

    You seem to be doing all kinds of somersaults to avoid the inevitable conclusion, which is that the Council of Ireland provisions were used by extreme Unionists to crash Sunningdale.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Sorry Kevin, but responding to criticism of Hume by saying that the other parties did little better is not a rebuttal. It’s whataboutery.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The Council of Ireland was abolished by the British as the Irish Government didn’t recognize it or show up to it.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Pretty much everything DUP/UKUP post Good Friday Agreement.

    I would argue that Sunningdale gave the SDLP the experience to know to put the thing to a public referendum to castrate the DUP somewhat from wrecking everything. The DUP didn’t believe in the Principle of Consent so they would oppose everything and anything politically Strand Two, the Irish Government and the SDLP signed up in principle to the Principle of Consent and the UUP knew it. The DUP opposed any cross border discussions, they opposed the Equality Commission, they opposed O’Neill’s reforms … if it wasn’t for Jeffrey and Arlene’s pragmaticism, and the smarts to distract them with entitling them to a ministry they would simply remain just a bigger version of the TUV.

    There really isn’t much of a muchness between the Council of Ireland, and the North-South interparliamentary body.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I’m choosing to ignore your sectarianism, consider it a favour.

  • Kevin Breslin

    You still can’t defend your bizarre nonsense. You have previously conceded that Sinn Féin wanted to give up violence because they were losing hearts and minds, now you are changing that arguement to say well the IRA wanted to hold on to violence to throw Hume under the bus. Or if Mallon threw Hume under the bus Sinn Féin one of the most highly funded parties in Ireland would give up not only violence support but politics too. That’s very naive.

    If Seamas Mallon was the great thorn in the side of Sinn Féin what exactly did he do to vindicate that snipping from the sidelines was bringing our society closer to peace?

  • tmitch57

    And Trimble investigated conflicts from around the globe to find support for the unionist position.

    Alliance politicians were not narrow tribalists, which explains why they weren’t terribly effective at delivering anyone during the Good Friday negotiations and afterwards.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I don’t think Trimble or Hume were “narrow”, it infers a limited view. I would consider myself very narrow thinking on certain topics, but only because I deal with piecemeal problems.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    So you haven’t read the book ?

  • Catcher in the Rye

    You have previously conceded that Sinn Féin wanted to give up violence because they were losing hearts and minds,

    I have conceded nothing. It is a fact that leading figures in the IRA had determined that the “war” could not be won by the time of the hunger strikes and were slowly nudging the republican movement towards constitutional means, and the success of the hunger strikes and the elections at that time were the first major score for those leading figures, who then consolidated upon them by talking about “armalite and ballot box” and so on. This fact is a central strand of the argument that Hume played no role in “persuading” the IRA that they should do this.

    now you are changing that arguement to say well the IRA wanted to hold on to violence to throw Hume under the bus.

    At no point have I said anything of the kind. My argument is very clear; the IRA (or at least, most of it) did not want to hold onto violence and they used Hume to help create momentum for Sinn Féin’s electoral strategy. I have repeated this now at least half a dozen times.

    Or if Mallon threw Hume under the bus Sinn Féin one of the most highly funded parties in Ireland would give up not only violence support but politics too. That’s very naive.

    As I have repeatedly pointed out, and will keep pointing out, the IRA had already decided to give up violence before Hume became involved.

    Instead of inventing imaginary alternative conclusions, maybe you could try addressing my factual assertions ?

    If Seamas Mallon was the great thorn in the side of Sinn Féin

    Remind me – who said this ?

    what exactly did he do to vindicate that snipping from the sidelines was bringing our society closer to peace?

    huh ?

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Pretty much everything DUP/UKUP post Good Friday Agreement.

    The principal complaint of anti-agreement Unionists in the GFA is the presence of a party linked to a terrorist organisation in Government. Given that in 1974 there was never any question of such an organisation being in government, what other objections could they possibly have raised ?

  • Twilight of the Prods

    Re-read some books on Northern Irish history from the hunger strikes through the first years of the Anglo Irish Agreement. Look at the motivations and actions of British and Irish governments during this period.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The SDLP was in neither the British nor the Irish government, and since Gerry Fitt’s part in the fall of Callaghan administration the SDLP did not have any say of either’s security.

    There was also direct rule, all the SDLP could have any direct political say in were a couple of councils. How much do you think could be done from Derry CIty Council?

    Hume’s only power was his stature and his mandate and he used both to the best of his abilities.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Opposition to a Council of Ireland or any other suggested possible Strand Two alternative.

    You are still making the case that anti-agreement Unionists didn’t need to compromise, but pro-agreement Nationalists had to keep them happy, even though they didn’t receive a single vote from either of them, they weren’t at the negotiating table to compromise, nor would were they in the same government.

    Do you not realise that the SDLP did compromise with the UUP and Alliance, and those on the outside were not interested in compromising with any of them, otherwise they would have gotten involved in Sunningdale.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Firstly if the IRA didn’t want to engage in violence, they would stop full stop, … neither Hume-Adams unfortunately, or Adams own effort stopped the willingness to commit violence.

    Hume was keeping people from seeing the IRA as their own option by providing his own choice as a human being. Even when members of Sinn Féin were victims of violence including Gerry Adams, the IRA continued and he defended them.

    He could empathize with people who wanted to commit violence, because he was a victim of violence. It is a modest human power, but not so modest to be so insignificant not to sell.

    I’m sure Adams could see himself that O’Bradaigh was running the party into the ground, while Hume better reflected the will of the Irish nationalist people, their desire for peace and Reynolds having a fairly strong government in the South.

    As selfish and strategic as it may’ve been for Adams to work with Hume, Hume’s success highlighted the nationalist population’s outright rejection of violence.

    Without Hume, or by ignoring Hume like his predecessor did how were Adam’s effort for peace going to get anywhere?

    He would still have people who would oppose him, maybe even kill him for suggesting that decommissioning, going to Stormont, powersharing with unionists, going into talks before the “Brits” demilitarize was a treason against the IRA.

    It doesn’t matter if the IRA decided to end violence without John Hume, John Hume clearly showed that the will of the Irish nationalist people that they didn’t want violence anyway.

    The fact is the IRA continued violence even after Hume-Adams, the SDLP and John Hume condemned them at every step. Hume wanted a peace-process, so did Adams, if neither got what they wanted they would’ve not signed up to the Good Friday Agreement.

    The pseudo-Augutine of Hippo approach of “Lord give me peace and a political settlement, but not yet” is not something I’m going to praise the unilateral actions of the IRA leadership in peace-building.

    Hume and Adams could put something towards the electorate, but neither could use a system to gerrymander the electorate … nationalist voters are smarter than that.

  • tmitch57

    Both were narrow in whom they regarded as their natural constituency, although Hume went back and forth on this. Both nationalists and unionists regard the other ethnic group as a group to be bullied into their own “natural” state where they are the majority and the other is the minority to be treated like subjects. Hume, unlike the Republicans, wanted to “persuade” the unionists, but he preferred others to do the persuasion for him–others with more leverage.

  • Kevin Breslin

    We’re going to have to agree to disagree on this, Hume’s broader constituency was really Ireland and to some extent Europe, he was someone very close to both the British and Irish Labour Party. Trimble left the UUP and was heavily involved in British politics as a Tory and very much in the UCUNF mentality. He is for all intensive purposes as Tory as any other Tory. They were tribalists to an extent, but really not narrow one in relative British and Irish terms. Alliance weren’t tribalists, but again weren’t they narrow? with the possible exceptions of maybe Lib Dems like Ford and Alderdice most of them probably were. To me the only objective measure to judge broad and narrow mentality is networking ability and appeal.

    Both Hume and Trimble had that, they became Nobel Peace Prize winners after all and elevated themselves to the international stage. That’s a lot broader than 99.999% of Northern Irish folk will ever be.

    The Gerry Fitts and Enoch Powells really only had a different kind of narrow, their differing political tastes didn’t reach out to a much broader constituency in reality. That lost the votes and the networks that vindicated them as representing a broader constituency. Fitt’s network appeal was very low, Irish, British, Northern Irish, international he didn’t have much of a strong network, I would say he’s more narrow than say an Eammon McCann or Mary Robinson would be at their prime, I would say despite having a much larger audience to work with Kate Hoey’s appeal is very narrow too and belonging to the No side on the Euro debate she’s a bit tribal herself. Ruth Kelly was perhaps a much better networker and a much more of an internationalist.
    I doubt Powell was a strong networker outside trying to demagogue and capture a zeitgeist, he was probably more narrow than I would say Farage is and not much difference with him and Trimble.

    I doubt that 95%-98% of most people in the UK and or Ireland were really any less narrow than either in my perception, never mind Northern Ireland. You really are talking multilingual internationalists here, and I mean even then Hume was fluent enough in French to teach it. People who basically spent a long period of time as a migrant or living in other countries I would guess.

    We don’t have the luxury of being born on the continent, being born on islands gives us insular mentalities, insular comes very much from the word island. I shudder at UKIP’s insular mentality, but I basically get a feeling where it comes from to an extent. I get the feeling that the Labour parties, the Conservatives, the Lib Dems, the SNP, Plaid Cymru, even the Greens, Alliance, and all the parties in the Republic have strong insular mentalities too.

    I think if we want to judge someone on being broad or narrow we need to judge them on the number of networks they have, not the number of admirers they want or how big a constituency they feel that they represent.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I remember reading Horseman’s comments about “Trimble’s Catholics”, and many moans about John Hume getting in on Unionist votes. It would be wrong to on the basis of their own personal politics say they didn’t do a job representing their constituency for people who weren’t from their “tribe”. Republicans’ (i.e. Sinn Féin’s) attempts at Outreach were a failure, very recently they were demanding pacts in six constituencies, five for Sinn Féin one for the SDLP because political unionism had their pacts.

    Not very Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter was it?