John Hume’s 80th Birthday – The Martin Luther King Jnr of Ireland

Bono in his song ‘In The Name of Love’ sang about Martin Luther King Jnr about how “One Man Came In Love”. Today we celebrate the 80th birthday of the Martin Luther King of Ireland, one man who came in love and preached a message of peace, tolerance and accommodation.

It is a sad irony that in the week that the institutions in the North collapse in acrimony and rancour, the man who towered over the chaos of the Troubles celebrates his 80th birthday.

Even in the darkest of days John never lost faith in the primacy of politics and used non-violent constitutional means to chart a new future in the North and on the island.

Nearly 20 years ago, with courage and bravery he fashioned the ideas at the core of the Good Friday Agreement. The GFA remains his crowning glory and is a testament to his vision, leadership and negotiation skills.

President Clinton, in his 80th birthday wishes to John Hume said: “From the first time we met, I knew you were a man of uncommon conviction, deep humanity, and most importantly, infinite patience. Not many in your position would have stayed the course for peace in the face of such long odds, but your belief that progress was possible gave hope to all-parties and ensured that peace stayed within reach, even during the most challenging moments.” Never truer words have been spoken.

The ambition and hopes of the GFA may be under serious strain today. The best way to honour his 80th birthday is for all of us reaffirm our pledge to the spirit of generosity and respect for difference at the heart of the Agreement.

Tim Attwood is an SDLP Councillor in Belfast

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  • Dan

    For clarification, has every comment to be a fawning tribute?

    Anyway, happy birthday to Mr Hume.

  • Ernekid

    All the SDLP can do is give fawning hagiographies about John Hume, treating him like he was the second coming because they’ve achieved bugger all in the nearly 20 years since he’s left the political scene

  • Brian O’Neill


    -Noble Peace Prize winner
    -Voted Ireland Greatest ever person
    -Recipient of the Gandhi Peace Prize and the Martin Luther King Award
    -Made a Knight Commander by the Pope
    -Worked tirelessly to bring jobs to NI
    -Basically wrecked his health to bring peace to Northern Ireland.

    Absolutely nothing here worth celebrating.

  • Ernekid

    That’s all grand but what have his successors done to build on it?

  • Brian O’Neill

    The post does not even mention the SDLP. You bring a new low of whataboutery if you can’t acknowledge the birthday of the man who did so much for the people of Northern Ireland.

  • Madra Uisce

    No Im sure Mainland Ulsterman will e along to give the Alliance view on Hume. Anyhow Happy Birthday to Irelands greatest living Irishman.


    No doubt John Hume was our greatest Irishman, best wishes to him and
    his great wife who stuck with him in thev hard times,Certain journalists who
    are still with us would like us forget the attacks they made on him for talking
    to Adams, most of it led by the Sunday Independent.Adams and Paisley
    were well able for abuse, John did not expect it. .He was a great and decent man, those that came after him were unable to fill his boots.

  • Jag

    Happy Birthday John! You should have won at least two Nobel prizes, shure, wasn’t that microfinance Nobel winner Muhammad Yunus just copying your spearheading the credit union movement. Many happy returns to you and your good wife, Pat.

  • Granni Trixie

    For the record, MU has not allegiances to Alliance – I always assumed he had to UUP though not sure why I think that.

  • AntrimGael

    What a GREAT man and Happy 80th John. Oh how we could do with you now. A man who only wanted to see peace on this island and relationships between Ireland and Britain improved. He took some awful personal abuse for bringing Sinn Fein into the political scene but he was always looking at the bigger picture.

  • AntrimGael

    And what exactly have Sinn Fein delivered for the Nationalist community……..BUGGER ALL to paraphrase you.

  • Anthony O’Shea

    Happy Birthday Mr Hume, one of the greatest statesmen to have ever lived.

  • Madra Uisce

    Im well aware of that Granni, i was being a little sarcastic in relation to his claim to be an Alliance supporter,and his dislike of Hume. I always thought him more of a fan of the DUP given his posting profile But you never know. I guess we are going off topic. What is your own take on Hume and his legacy?

  • ted hagan

    Well said, Tim, a courageous man.

  • Oggins

    Agree. If you want to talk about what the SDLP have done since, write for slugger.

    A great Irish man and a bringer of peace.

  • AntrimGael

    As I said in another thread that particular media group has played a rabidly negative, poisonous role in the search for peace on this island. Their non stop, personal attacks on John Hume were disgusting and most of those responsible are still there. Fionnuala O’Connor really stuck the boot into them yesterday in the Irish News.


    I did not see that article by Fionnuala yesterday. those
    journalists would like us all to forget the torture they put
    John and his wife through just to get at Adams, Pat Hume
    is one great lady, how she must have suffered, No decent
    person will ever forget what they did for Ireland,

  • Granni Trixie

    TBH, I don’t know much about him which is why I’m reading this post and comments From fans.

  • Teddybear

    He unwittingly spawned the growth of SF & failed in adequate succession planning for the SDLP

    While a man of peace he changed the SDLP to a hue of green that precipitated the resignation of the socialist and anti sectarian Gerry Fitt.

    The SDLP could have become a genuine cross community Labour movement but Hume cut that rose down.


    It was not Humes fault that the leaders who came after him were not
    fit to polish his boots never mind fill them,Hume was big enough to
    reach for peace above party lines.

  • Roger

    Daniel O’Connell
    As in the fella Dublin’s main street is named after just might have clinched the MLK badge ahead of JH.
    And I don’t say that to take from JH. A great man indeed.

  • J D

    Hume reckons he had help with the health problems. Got a jab in the calf once and soon after the problems started manifesting.

  • AntrimGael

    The socialist Gerry Fitt who became a Peer of the Realm, was against the Anglo Irish Agreement, went to London and became an arch critic of the SDLP and Sinn Fein? No wonder Unionists eulogised him at the end!

  • Granni Trixie

    I don’t want to Labour the point but the clue is it’s written by Tim Atwood.

  • the rich get richer

    A great man altogether…..Look at what is flutering around Storming these days….Enough said .

  • grumpy oul man

    If the buffoons that we have to day formed a human pyramid they might be able to reach far enough to tie his shoelaces.

  • grumpy oul man

    The work he done with the credit union movement was among his greatest,
    It helped send so many young people to UNI.
    JH knew a educated catholic was much more dangerous than one with a gun.

  • grumpy oul man

    But he said he was a Alliance supporter but then again he says a lot of things.

  • grumpy oul man

    A truly great man, people are not fawning merely telling the truth.

  • Ciaran Caughey

    Funny when he wife said he came home every night drunk as a Lord.Grew up beside him loads of laughs.

  • Granni Trixie

    I didn’t know that as I perceived him solidly to be UUP,rightly or wrongly. Now where is MU when you want to hear from him – he can put us right.

  • grumpy oul man

    I think that anybody who seem his “im a Alliance supporter” claim didnt believe it .

  • Granni Trixie

    AgaIn for the record I did not see the words “I’m an Alliance supporter” but I think I remember he indicated he had some sympathy with the Alliance position. It refects that the party is transfer friendly, in his case from the UUP side of the house.

  • grumpy oul man

    trust me the words were there.

  • Steptoe

    No sure we might all get to speak Irish in court. That’ll put the bread on the table

  • Old Mortality

    Since he never held office for any length of time, we don’t know whether he would have been more effective than the current incumbents. I remember him making some crass statements on economic matters which would not fill me with confidence.

  • Old Mortality

    Extra bread on the lawyers’ tables, almost certainly. Sure what’s the point of it otherwise?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    If anyone’s interested … Yes, GT, I am leaning to Alliance these days, having been disillusioned with Labour in NI over their endorsement of Corbyn. I’m basically non-Corbyn Labour, nationally, and of course I live in mainland Britain these days. The support for a NI party is in terms of sentiment really, as I can’t vote back home, though I did give the odd spot of money to the NI Labour cause. I was broadly a UUP supporter for a long time, though one friendly to Alliance, coming from Alliance-voting parents with whom I was very close. I felt the UUP was actually the best bet for leading unionist people intelligently and constructively towards an accommodation with the SDLP.

    Why not Alliance back then? In those times, unionist people were getting it from all sides very unfairly and were isolated (as unionists usually find themselves, but it was particularly acute then). I felt the unionist case needed making in clear terms and the UUP was the best vehicle for that, with the most credibility with unionist people and the ability to speak for more unionists than any other. It had to lead. On the whole I think Trimble did a great job and deserved his Nobel Prize – and I’m glad I supported that work (in a very, very small way). Alliance was fine, but actually the big deal that was needed was between the two ‘ethnic blocks’. Alliance could help in that but not deliver either block. That was the reality. I didn’t disagree with much of what they said, though I generally groaned when they were critical of the UUP, which always felt a bit party political and a bit fake to me.

    I’ve remained very supportive broadly of the UUP position on many issues relating to community relations, the past and so on. I actually don’t see the moderate end of the UUP as really too different from the Alliance position. But more broadly I came to feel, probably from the Reg Empey days onwards, that maybe the UUP wasn’t really the closest party for me. The conservative, centre-right nature of their economic ideas was a big turn-off for me, when the constitutional and security issues started to subside a little from pre-eminence and something like more normal politics took centre stage. There was always a tension between being a Labour voter (occasionally Lib Dem) over here and backing a right of centre party back home. When the UUP teamed up with the Tories – whom I really object to – for the 2010 election, that really was a breaking point for me.

    The big factor tipping me towards Alliance is that I really want, longer term, a N Ireland of non-sectarian parties, where the border is not a constant debating issue. And I think it is time to actually back parties that represent that, having secured the Union for the long term now (as I see it anyway!). I had long wanted Labour representation in NI and do back the goal of getting Labour properly up and running in NI. But the Corbyn stuff has been self-defeating madness – and surprise, surprise, he won’t let them put up candidates. Alliance is the only major party to actively seek to transcend ethnic block politics – walking the walk on that and not just talking the talk – and so it has my admiration and best wishes, I want it to grow. Being realistic, medium term, a better future means also wanting the SDLP and UUP to grow too, at the expense of the DUP and Sinn Fein. Alliance can’t do it on its own. So I am trying to be supportive of centrists generally.

    But yes I am still very much a small ‘u’ unionist and, especially on Slugger, I do find myself having to critique nationalist analysis from a broadly unionist perspective. The vast majority of postings on here buy into a nationalist narrative of N Ireland which I think gets some key points about the politics of NI badly wrong. Balance requires that unionist perspectives are featured here. The fact I’m having to write this, to explain how someone can be a unionist who finds Alliance their nearest political ‘home’, is a case in point. I’d have thought anyone reading my stuff on here would grasp pretty quickly I reject the DUP’s brand of unionism but find Irish Republicanism a particularly odious movement, and that I believe in a robust defence of the centre against the sectarian extremes. Most of all I’m against the ‘normalisation’ of extreme, illiberal views – something America is about to have a crash course in. You have to remember what is normal and not get dragged into the crazy fruitcakery of people who want to ban Muslims or talk about the UVF and IRA as if they were real soldiers and not terrorist fools.

    I disagree with Alliance on some issues. On the Belfast City Council flags issue, I think Alliance made a mistake – they should have refused to back a change that lacked cross-community support on such a sensitive issue of symbolism and identity. The report on flags that followed was spot on, in saying this issue needed to be decided at a N Ireland level, by party leaders and not piecemeal by councils. Alliance is also allied to the Lib Dems and obviously I took massive issue with Lib Dem involvement in the 2010-15 Coalition, austerity and all that nonsense. But generally Alliance has good liberal instincts and gets it right more often than not.

    So a long answer but at least there are no more excuses for those who seek to misrepresent where I stand – of whom there is no shortage on this site.

  • Simian Droog

    “Difference is the essence of humanity. Difference is an accident of birth, and it should therefore never be the source of hatred or conflict. Therein lies a most fundamental principle of peace: respect for diversity.”

    Hume Crass? Hmm. Well then you must be utterly horrified considering what our current lot utter from their gobs.

  • Granni Trixie

    I appreciate the trouble you are taking to try to unpack your political origientation – I will try to digest. Your piece chimes for me with McIlroys cri de coeur. Life must be easier I imagine for those who have a strong sense of belonging to one side or the other. I’m sure we have much in common and equally much where we don’t (- minor point – I cannot agree with your admiring remarks about Trimble).
    Anyway, as I said thanks for taking the trouble – you didn’t have to.

  • I’ve always had difficulty with the comparison of John Hume with Martin Luther King Jr. MLK was an integrationist, seeking equality of African-Americans as full citizens of America. I respect Hume for working for parity of esteem for Irish nationalists. But he is no integrationist with a British or even united Northern/Ulster identity. So perhaps an MLK for the Irish people, exclusively. More akin to Louis Farrakhan?