September 23, 2020

John Hume: Family of former SDLP leader says streets of Derry should not be lined for funeral

August 04, 2020

John Hume's family has asked people to protect public health by not lining the streets of Derry for his funeral.

The former SDLP leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, widely regarded as the architect of the Good Friday Agreement, died earlier this week, aged 83.

Restrictions imposed as a result of the global pandemic will limit numbers in St Eugene's Cathedral to his family and a few notable exceptions.

Ireland's president, Taoiseach (prime minister), Tanaiste (deputy prime minister) and foreign affairs minister are all expected to pay their respects.

First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill, the women tasked with defending the peace he helped build, will represent Northern Ireland's devolved government.

In normal circumstances, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, his predecessor Tony Blair and former US President Bill Clinton are likely to have travelled to Londonderry for the funeral.

In a statement issued through the church, his wife Pat and family thanked people for their tributes and urged them to make public health a priority.

Father Paul Farren, Administrator of the Cathedral of St Eugene, said: "Pat and her family are very grateful for the outpouring of love and support following the death of their beloved John.

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"The family are anxious that a public gathering for John's funeral might inadvertently put someone's health at risk in the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic and are asking that people express their grief by staying at home and joining with the Hume family in a Celebration of Light for Peace," he added.

On the eve of the funeral, Father Farren said: "Instead of lining roads and streets to show respect to John, it is the wish of the Hume family that we remain at home, light a candle and join with the family to pray the Prayer of St Francis of Assisi: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

"This Celebration of Light for Peace is a fitting tribute to a much loved and distinguished Irishman," he added.

A civil rights activist, impacted by Bloody Sunday and other tragic events in his city, John Hume pursued Irish unity by exclusively peaceful means.

He was fiercely criticised for engaging in secret talks with Gerry Adams but that engagement paved the way to the IRA ceasefire and Good Friday Agreement.

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