John Hume: Mourners arrive at funeral for Northern Ireland political titan

5 August 2020, 12:13

John Hume is renowned as a political titan in Northern Ireland
John Hume is renowned as a political titan in Northern Ireland. Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

Mourners have arrived at St Eugene's Cathedral in Londonderry for the funeral of former SDLP leader John Hume.

The former SDLP leader and Noble Peace Prize winner died on Monday, aged 83, following a battle with illness. 

His body was returned to his city of birth on Tuesday night, where he will be laid to rest. 

The guests at the service, which begins at 11.30am, include Derry musician Phil Coulter, who is expected to play The Town I Loved So Well.

Irish President Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach Micheal Martin, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney as well as first and deputy first ministers Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill are among the dignitaries in attendance. 

Patricia Hume (second in from right) arrives at St Eugene's Cathedral in Londonderry
Patricia Hume (second in from right) arrives at St Eugene's Cathedral in Londonderry. Picture: PA
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis arrives
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis arrives. Picture: PA

Others include Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis, Chief Constable of the Northern Ireland Police Service Simon Byrne and Alliance leader Naomi Long.

Many of the mourners are wearing face coverings and adhering to social distancing rules. Around 100 people are expected to attend the service.

Mr Hume's family urged those wishing to line the streets to respect Covid-19 guidelines on gatherings and light a "candle for peace" at home.

The political titan was renowned for playing a central role in peace talks to end the 30-year violent Troubles, which culminated in the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. 

Northern Ireland First Minister arrives at the funeral
Northern Ireland First Minister arrives at the funeral. Picture: PA
President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins arrives at the funeral
President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins arrives at the funeral. Picture: PA

He was a founding member of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) in 1970 and was its leader from 1979 until 2001.

Since his death tributes have flooded in from across the world. Former Prkme Minister Tony Blair hailed him as "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 and he will rightly be remembered for it," he said.

 "He was insistent it was possible, tireless in pursuit of it and endlessly creative in seeking ways of making it happen.

"Former US President Bill Clinton said Mr Hume "fought his long war for peace in Northern Ireland".

"His chosen weapons: an unshakeable commitment to nonviolence, persistence, kindness and love," he said.

"With his enduring sense of honour, he kept marching on against all odds towards a brighter future for all the children of Northern Ireland.”