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Killarney pays tribute to John Hume – ‘father of the Irish peace process’

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John Hume pictured with Cllr Michael Gleeson and Cllr Tom Fleming. Photo: Michelle Cooper Galvin.

 

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By Sean Moriarty

 

Local tributes have been paid to Nobel laureate and peacemaker John Hume, the ‘father of the Irish peace process’ who died earlier this week.

Mr Hume, aged 83, died at his Donegal home on Monday and was laid to rest in St Eugene’s Cathedral in his home city on Wednesday.

Born in Derry/Londonderry, John Hume was the second leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) from 1979 to 2001. He served as a member of the European Parliament and a member of the UK parliament, as well as a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Regarded as one of the most important figures in the recent political history of Ireland he was one of the architects of the Northern Ireland peace process. The co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize with Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble in 1998, Hume was also recognised with the Gandhi Peace Prize and the Martin Luther King Award - the only recipient of all three major peace awards.

In 2010, he was named 'Ireland's Greatest' in a public poll by RTÉ.

Local priest Fr Tom Looney has fond memories of Hume. They both attended Maynooth University and graduated on the same day in 1958. They both studied under Fr Tomas O’Fiaich who later became The Cardinal of All Ireland.

Later in his career Fr Tom was appointed parish priest in Wembley, London where Hume’s nephew become one of his alter servers.

Fr Tom is synonymous with the Church of Christ, The Prince of Peace Church in Fossa which was officially opened in June 1977 at the height of The Troubles in Northern Ireland.

The church’s name was chosen as a mark of hope that peace could be achieved in Northern Ireland and the Fossa Parish Pastoral Council purposely employed Derry-based architect Liam McCormick to design the building.

Speaking to the Killarney Advertiser on Wednesday morning, the day of Hume’s funeral, Fr Tom recalled the great man.

“We graduated on the same day and I always followed his life with great interest. John Hume wanted peace in Northern Ireland, and here we are standing in the Church of Christ, the Prince of Peace – a place of prayer for peace - on the day of his funeral,” Fr Tom said. “I was glad to meet him again on his visit to Tralee.”

Hume was the guest speaker at the Labour Party’s National Conference which was held in the Brandon Hotel in Tralee in 1999.

Current Councillor Michael Gleeson met John Hume in 2000 when he came to North Cork to celebrate the life of Ballydesmond native Nora Herlihy who was one of the founders of the Irish Credit Union.

ADVOCATE

Although best remembered for political roles, Hume was also a firm advocate of the Credit Union movement. He was a founding member of the Derry branch and was appointed the youngest ever president of the Irish League of Credit Unions, at the age of 27.

At the time Hume was honoured with a civic reception by Killarney Town Council in recognition of his trojan work in both the political life of Northern Ireland and with the Credit Union movement.

“I met him in Rathmore during that visit. We spoke firstly about a former neighbour of mine and former Spa football colleague, who worked with John for a short while in a Derry College,” Mr Gleeson told the Killarney Advertiser.

“We obviously spoke of the great movement that is the Credit Union in which I have a great interest in. John was, from the words he spoke at the Civic Reception and in private in Rathmore, deeply committed to the overall betterment of ordinary people in their daily existence. There were no airs or graces about him. An ordinary person trying to do ordinary deeds extraordinarily well. He had courage, commitment, great honesty and the lack of the insidious plague of bitterness.”

VISIONARY

Sean Counihan was the Mayor of Killarney at that time. The Civic Reception took place in The Park Hotel and the former councillor remembered the occasion this week.

“John Hume was a visionary, a peacemaker and community activist who saw working people suffer during The Troubles. In my view John Hume was one of the great people of this country. He strived for social justice for his people and was one of the great people of Ireland,” he told the Killarney Advertiser. “To his wife Pat, who was always by his side, it was my pleasure on behalf of the people of Killarney to have had the opportunity, with my council colleagues, to have afforded you Killarney’s highest honour.”

The Cathaoirleach of Kerry County Council, Cllr Patrick Connor Scarteen this week opened an online Book of Condolences.

Cllr Connor-Scarteen said that John Hume made an immense contribution to peace on the island of Ireland and that he was pleased to afford the people of Kerry the opportunity to express their sympathies and share their messages on Mr Hume at this sad time.

The online Book of Condolences can be accessed via the Kerry County Council website, www.kerrycoco.ie.

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By Niamh Dwyer, Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors

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Niamh Dwyer is a Guidance Counsellor in Scoil Phobail Sliabh Luachra, Rathmore, and Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors. She is also a Career Consultant – For details see www.mycareerplan.ie or follow @mycareerplan on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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