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Taoiseach unveils John Hume bust in Washington

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John Hume (Niall Carson/PA) (PA File)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin unveiled a bust of John Hume in Washington on Tuesday.

Martin, who is in Washington for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, said the former SDLP leader was committed to peace and reconciliation around the world, and not just in Northern Ireland.

Referring to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Taoiseach said that Hume would have been a “powerful voice defending democracy, defending European values ​​and insisting on the right of all people to be free.”

The ceremony was attended by members of Mr. Hume’s family, as well as Congressman Richard Neal and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood.

The bust is by artist Elizabeth O’Kane.

“By any measure, John Hume was a great Irishman who dedicated his life to his community, his country and the international cause of peace and reconciliation,” Martin told the meeting in Washington.

“That is why it is a special honor to be here today to unveil this magnificent sculpture, a show of respect from a grateful country and a fitting reminder of the extraordinary work he has done in this city.

“John was a force of nature who used his immense energy and talent as a tireless servant in the cause of civil rights, peace and reconciliation.

“In the darkest moments of the conflict, he provided irreplaceable leadership, never losing faith that justice and peace would prevail.

“There is simply no question that without John Hume providing the roadmap, the 1998 Good Friday Agreement would have been impossible.

“We felt a great loss when John left us two years ago, and again last year at the passing of his loving wife Pat, who, like John, was an extraordinary agent and advocate for peace.”

Mr. Hume, as part of his efforts to secure peace in Northern Ireland, spent a considerable amount of time and energy among political leaders in Washington.

“Throughout his four decades of public action, John was determined that the rights and voices of all the people of Derry, Northern Ireland and Ireland be heard,” said Martin.

“Like all truly historical figures, he wanted to change the debate and break the cycle of division and misunderstanding that too often sits at the foot of conflict.

“That’s what brought him to this city and helped him build and renew deep connections with Ireland in Congress and various administrations.”

The Taoiseach said the conflict in Ukraine cannot be ignored, even as Ireland celebrates its patron saint.

“The peace that we now enjoy in Ireland is something that we cherish. However, this St. Patrick’s Day our celebrations are tempered by the suffering of the Ukrainian people and by the reminder that peace and democracy can never be taken for granted.

“In Ireland and the world, we celebrate this Saint Patrick’s Day in solidarity and communion with Ukraine.

“John was never the strongest voice, but he was always the clearest and most powerful.

“At this time, and always, we should be proud to have known him and determined to honor his service.”

Martin also issued a warning that peace cannot be taken for granted in Northern Ireland.

“John’s work is as vital as ever. Perhaps above all he teaches us the importance of patience and persistence in the search for political agreement. As Yeats wrote in a different context, ‘the peace is slowly falling’.

“The peace process in Northern Ireland has been transformative, but it remains a work in progress.

“Northern Ireland continues to grapple with painful and unresolved legacies, a still urgent need to address poverty and disadvantage, and now the disruptive consequences of Brexit.

“Unfortunately, the generous, open and inclusive vision that John worked so tirelessly for is too often lost.”


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