John Hume: 'An inspiration to me and my generation'

By David Wilson
BBC News NI

  • Published
bill clinton and john humeImage source, PAcemaker
Image caption,
John Hume, pictured with former US President Bill Clinton, has died at the age of 83

"He was someone who brought peace to where I live. He gave me and my generation a future."

Katie O'Doherty has only just turned 16. She was born in Londonderry a few years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

She is part of Northern Ireland's peace generation - a generation, she says, that owes so much to the work and principles of John Hume.

"He was the most inspirational and important figure of the peace process and that was such a historic moment - it helped people move on, helped our city, helped where we live transition to a place of peace," she said.

"He was someone who brought peace to where I live. He gave me and my generation a future."

His influence was felt in many aspects of life in her home town, said Katie.

She is a volunteer member of the Credit Union in Derry, an organisation founded by John Hume.

Pointing out his pivotal role in Derry's civil rights campaign of the late 1960s, Katie said his death marked "a sad day for our city".

"But John Hume is a great inspiration to me and to my generation".

Image source, Leif Skoogfors
Image caption,
John Hume (left), pictured with Ivan Cooper, was a key figure in the civil rights movement of the late 1960s

Mr Hume, a founding member and former leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), played a major role in the peace talks which led to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, along with the then leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, David Trimble.

Jonny Houston, from Lurgan, was a young boy when the GFA was signed.

His millennial generation owed much to the work of John Hume and others, he said.

It was hard to see how the violence would have ended had Hume and David Trimble "not built the bridge to bring the two communities together," he added.

"It could have been very different had they not brought about the agreement."

John Hume was instrumental in showing that while "everyone was entitled to different opinions and political views", there were other options than violence, said Jonny.

'He has given us a future'

Tara Healy, who also comes from the city of Derry, turns 18 next week.

Image source, PAcemaker
Image caption,
For many born after the Good Friday Agreement, John Hume is seen as instrumental in bringing peace to Northern Ireland

She said Mr Hume's legacy still resonated with people her age.

He was held in as much reverence by young people as he was by her parents' generation, she said.

"Growing up, he was someone who was always spoken about at home, and for mummy and daddy he was simply the greatest man ever to come from Derry," said Tara.

Without his devotion to building a lasting peace in Northern Ireland, life for Northern Ireland's millennial generation could have been very different, she added.

"John Hume has given us a future. He has brought so much to our city, and has done so much for our generation.

"It is hard to imagine what life was like before peace, but without him I don't think things would be what they are for us now."

She added: "He is someone to be greatly admired for sticking to to the principles of peace, for standing his ground at a time when violence was all around him."