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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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Valuable role of Kerry cancer support charity recognised nationally

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Cancer support charity Recovery Haven Kerry has been recognised for its vital role in supporting cancer patients and their families at a national ceremony in Dublin.

The renowned cancer support house was one of 16 such centres across Ireland that were presented with plaques to acknowledge their full membership of the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) Alliance – a group made up of voluntary and charity organisations delivering support services directly to cancer patients and their families. An additional 10 associate member charities were also honoured, including Kerry Cancer Support Group.

The Alliance advocates for, and supports, the development of integrated pathways between the cancer centres, acute hospitals, community cancer support services and primary care services. All members’ development is in line with the values of Sláintecare, seeking to provide assurance to healthcare professionals that these organisations are working to an agreed standard as set out in Best Practice Guidance published by the NCCP. 

Speaking after the ceremony, which was held at Dublin’s Farmleigh Estate, Recovery Haven Kerry Chairman, Tim McSwiney, explained that being compliant with the Best Practice Guidance for Community Cancer Support Centres is a true mark of quality. 

“It offers us a yardstick to measure what we are doing against the standards required. As a result, healthcare professionals have more confidence in referring people to our services. We are very proud to be a member of the Alliance,” he said.

Recovery Haven Kerry was represented at the event by centre manager, Gemma Fort and Client Services Co-Ordinator, Siobhan MacSweeney and were presented with their plaque by NCCP Lead for Cancer Survivorship, Louise Mullen, Clinical Lead for Psycho-Oncology Dr Helen Greally, and Minister of State at the Department of Health, Colm Burke. 

The event was also used as an opportunity to announce funding of €3m for the NCCP’s Alliance of Community Cancer Support Centres and Services through Budget 2024. The NCCP is currently in the process of distributing these funds which will directly and positively impact the delivery of services for patients and families nationally.

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‘More Precious Than Gold’ book launch

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At the official book launch of ‘More Precious Than Gold: My enduring connection with John McShain – the man who built Washington’ by Alice O’Neill-McLoughlin at Killarney House, was Minister of State for Nature, Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan, T.D.

Alice was born the eldest of eleven children into an Irish farming family in Rosbercon, New Ross, County Wexford. In 1978, she was awarded a scholarship from John McShain- the iconic builder, philanthropist, devout Catholic with Derry ancestry, responsible for many famous American landmarks, including the Jefferson Memorial and the Pentagon.

Her book records the lifelong personal correspondence Alice exchanged with ‘The Man Who Built Washington.’ His philanthropy extended to the Irish people in the bequeathing to the State of Killarney House and the surrounding thousands of acres incorporating the Lakes, Ross Castle, and Innisfallen Island. In 2019, Alice had the honour of inducting John McShain into the Irish America Hall of Fame in her home town of New Ross in the presence of his relatives from Philadelphia and Derry. This is a tale of altruism, of gratitude, of faith and of a life lived in the pursuit of excellence.

Alice also donated her treasured correspondence of letters from John McShain for the archive at Killarney House. Also in attendance were Members of the Ignatius A. O’Shaughnessy family, who was founder of The Globe Oil and Refining Company – and part of a consortium of wealthy American businessmen who were going to purchase the lakes of Killarney as a Country Club in the 1950’s.

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