27 Nov 2021

'John Hume serves as an example to our post-conflict generation of what we can achieve'

Karl W Duncan, Secretary of the SDLP Youth Derry Branch, reflects on the legacy of the party's former leader

John Hume

The late John Hume.

“Ireland is not a romantic dream; it is not a flag; it is 4.5 million people divided into two powerful traditions. The solution will be found not on the basis of victory for either, but on the basis of agreement and a partnership between both. The real division of Ireland is not a line drawn on the map, but in the minds and hearts of its people.” 

It is hard to describe John Hume as anything but a Hero. His building of a lasting and sustainable peace in Ireland is why he shall be immortalised in history. John could be compared with the greats of Irish Nationalism like O’Connell and Parnell, but the truth of the matter is that John was in a league of his own.


As part of the post-conflict generation, we have John to thank for ensuring that we were able to grow up in a society without violence in our streets, we have John to thank for the fact we can walk any street in Derry with no fear, we have John to thank for guaranteeing that peace would prevail and that the gun would no longer have a place in Irish politics. I find it hard to imagine how Ireland would look today without the influence of John Hume.

John’s gift to people all across Ireland and people my age was ironic for such a beloved peacemaker, he taught us how to fight. He taught us how to fight against injustice, how to fight for equality, he taught us how to fight for freedom, how to fight for love, peace and how to fight for a better Ireland which we all can share. He fought with non-violence, he was a pacifist, even when confronted with threats, bombs, bullets, and death all around, his morals never shifted an inch. John taught us that living for your moral convictions was more righteous than using violent means to achieve your aims.

John Hume serves as an example to our post-conflict generation of what we can achieve when we put aside what divides us and instead celebrate what makes us equal. To young people he has shown that we can, in his words, “see an Ireland of partnership where we wage war on want and poverty, where we reach out to the marginalised and dispossessed, where we build together a future that can be as great as our dreams allow.”

John’s influence is everywhere throughout the great nation he called home, whether it was through his work in founding the Credit Union movement in Derry and becoming the youngest ever President of the Irish League of Credit Unions, as chair of the University for Derry Committee, his involvement as a civil rights movement leader, his work with the Derry Citizens’ Action Committee, the founding of the SDLP, his positions as MP, MEP and MLA, his role in the ceasefire talks, his work in America or his participation in delivering the Sunningdale Agreement, the Anglo-Irish Agreement or the Good Friday Agreement, John Hume’s life’s work is an indelible inspiration to everyone who calls Ireland home.

For me, personally, John Hume is an inspiration, he was a true political titan. I have been asked a number of times since John’s passing why I think everyday people are taking John’s death so personally, here’s why, I feel that John is inextricably linked to everyone in the North, his successes guaranteed that our lives and the lives of our children and grandchildren could be brighter. 

I think one of the most important lessons we must remember is that John Hume’s work is not finished. We still have to dismantle sectarianism within our society, we still have to work with all shades of the political spectrum, regardless of how much we disagree, in the pursuit of what is best for the people of Ireland. We still must protect civil rights and peace all across the globe from being corroded. We must work together to make a New Ireland and a Shared Ireland, where all people are equal. That is the Ireland John lived for and we must live for too, not only Derry but all of Ireland Mourns John Hume.

Go raibh maith agat John, you were truly Ireland’s Greatest.

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