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