BELFAST • Mr John Hume, a key Roman Catholic architect of Northern Ireland’s 1998 Good Friday peace agreement who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in ending 30 years of sectarian violence, died yesterday at the age of 83.
Mr Hume, a veteran civil rights campaigner credited with kick-starting peace negotiations in a British region convulsed by bloodshed in the early 1990s, shared the Peace Prize with Northern Ireland’s then-First Minister David Trimble of the Protestant Ulster Unionist Party.
Mr Hume died in a care home in his native Londonderry early yesterday morning, his family said.
“John Hume was a political titan; a visionary who refused to believe the future had to be the same as the past. His contribution to peace in Northern Ireland was epic,” said Mr Tony Blair, who was Britain’s prime minister at the time of the Good Friday accord.
Mr Hume, in 1968, joined a movement to protect the civil rights of the province’s pro-Irish Roman Catholic minority, fighting against discrimination by the pro-British Protestant majority.
As leader of the moderate Social Democratic and Labour Party, Mr Hume was an important advocate of non-violence as fighting erupted between Irish nationalists who wanted a united Ireland and pro-British forces who wanted to maintain the region’s British status. By 1998, more than 3,600 had died.
In a key breakthrough, Mr Hume in 1993 took part in pioneering talks with Mr Gerry Adams, then leader of Sinn Fein, the political wing of the guerilla Irish Republican Army.
The talks helped pave the way for a joint initiative by the British and Irish governments in 1993, leading to the Good Friday accord.