John Hume, the Northern Irish politician who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998 for his role in the British province’s peace process, has died aged 83, his family announced Monday.
Hume, the former leader of the mainly Catholic Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), shared the Nobel with David Trimble of the pro-British Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) after the pair helped forge the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement.
“We are deeply saddened to announce that John passed away peacefully in the early hours of the morning after a short illness,” his family said in a statement.
“John was a husband, a father, a grandfather, a great-grandfather and a brother. He was very much loved, and his loss will be deeply felt by all his extended family.”
The statement noted that Hume had been suffering from dementia and in the care of a nursing home in Londonderry.
The ex-SDLP leader helped to end three decades of bloody strife in Northern Ireland between the largely Catholic nationalist community who want to unify with Ireland and Protestant unionists who want to remain part of Britain.
A moderate voice during a conflict that had killed almost 3,600 people, Hume helped lead the cross-community peace process that culminated in the landmark Good Friday deal reached by Belfast, Dublin, London.
Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said it was “impossible to properly express the scale and significance of John Hume’s life”.
“He was one of the towering figures of Irish public life of the last century,” he said on Twitter. “His vision and tenacity saved this country.”
The SDLP said: “We all live in the Ireland he imagined — at peace and free to decide our own destiny.”
Hume’s family said his funeral would be arranged in accordance with current government regulations severely limiting the number of attendees due to the risk of spreading coronavirus.
“We realise this will mean that many will be unable to join us, and we will arrange a memorial service and a celebration of his life in due course,” they said.