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Wednesday, 19 September, 2001, 13:10 GMT 14:10 UK
SDLP leader John Hume's political legacy?
The leader of the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party, John Hume has announced that he is standing down as leader.

Mr Hume, who is 63, resigned his seat in the Northern Ireland assembly in August 2000. He is still an MP and an MEP.

He has played a huge role in politics in the province for more than 30 years. The IRA ceasefire in 1994 happened after his talks with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.

However, his huge workload has taken a toll on his health. In August 1999, Mr Hume was rushed to hospital while attending a conference in the Austrian resort of Alpbach. He underwent emergency bowel surgery which meant a period of recuperation.

Send us your comments about John Hume's political career. What contribution do you think he has made to the peace process in Northern Ireland? What do you think his lasting effect will be on the province?


John Hume is the only political leader in Northern Ireland who can truly be called a leader. In a part of the world where politicians seem too keen to act as followers of public opinion instead of showing leadership, he stands out as someone who bucked the trend and tried to lead public opinion. For this reason, his standing down as leader of his party is a sad loss for the whole province.
David Hazel, UK (England)

John Hume is to be commended for his effort to bring peace to Northern Ireland

Carol Scott
John Hume is to be commended for his effort to bring peace to Northern Ireland and his commitment to non-violent nationalism. However his legacy seems to be to see his party overtaken by Sein Fein and to see them using the same tactics in the Republic as in the North to win votes and influence in deprived areas with the aim of holding the balance of power there. Excellent tactics but where will it lead?
Carol Scott

Ireland lost a great leader today. John Hume will be remembered as a pillar of decency when the North of Ireland looked as if it would spiral into civil war. Many people would perhaps not be here today if it was not for his forward looking vision of bringing everyone to the negotiation table to talk rather than to resort to violence. Carsten and F. Price would do well to remember that!!
GP Ward, England

This is not a sad day! If we refuse to implement all that he stood for, then that's sad! God bless ya John - put your feet up and slope off to Spain for a well-earned bleak!
GK, Belfast

A very sad day indeed although God knows John Hume has certainly earned a rest. A truly level-headed and fair-minded man who throughout stormy times consistently steered a moderate course. We can only hope that someone of similar talents emerges to fill the huge void left by his departure. Few areas of this troubled world can afford to lose people like John when striving for lasting unity.
Shaun, Teignmouth

I'm not in favour of a united Ireland but if I had to nominate one person who has served the troubled province it would be John Hume. Before anyone else he grasped two facts. The first was that whoever wins the war is a side-show compared to the real challenge of learning to live together in peace. The second was that you have to make peace by putting revenge to one side and constantly talking to the rational elements of those who fight and those who support the fighters. You could never rely on peace happening solely through attrition, because opposing sides fuel each other through martyrdom, defiance and indiscriminate retaliation. If you're reading this John, could you have a word with President Bush? I'm sure he could use your counsel right now.
Patrick B, UK

John Hume leaves a party ready to serve all the people of Northern Ireland

Ciaran, South Armagh, Ireland
Congratulations to John Hume and his staff for all their work over the last 31 years. John Hume leaves a party ready to serve all the people of Northern Ireland, not one section over the other. His words of wisdom have become part of the everyday vocabulary in Ireland and Britain. Yes it is sad that John Hume has retired as leader of the SDLP but that is all. Watch out for a strong new leader and a strong Hume, the people's voice in Europe and elsewhere.
Ciaran, South Armagh, Ireland

John Hume has been a unique and rational voice amid the hysteria and polarisation of politics in Northern Ireland, eternally finding workable middle ground and refusing to lose sight of his aims and the principles of co-operation. Useless rhetoric has never been his way, and stubbornness, as is so often witnessed in the region's politics, on his part has only ever applied to the desire for peace. He is a deeply practical man who has been concerned with the overall improvement of Northern Ireland including involvement with housing projects, schools and international affairs, who also never lost sight of his ideals. Indeed he has remained true to them, a rare quality in today's vista of political representatives.
Sarah Hall, UK/ USA

John Hume has shown what can be achieved through dialogue. He has not shown that peace is certain following dialogue, nor that violence can ever be completely eradicated from our streets. But he has shown a new generation in Northern Ireland that inward investment CAN come following a cessation of violence, and that cessation of violence CAN follow from dialogue. In short, he has provided ordinary men, women and children with a living, dynamic framework for achieving positive things starting from a state of despair. Hopefully this will be enough to tip the long-term balance in favour of humanity in the province.
Rhys Jaggar, England

For a long time he was the voice of reason in Northern Ireland

Martin, Thailand
John Hume did more than anyone else to prove to the UK and the World that Catholic Nationalists could be moderate pragmatic people who would work for a peaceful and acceptable end to the troubles. For a long time he was the voice of reason in Northern Ireland and his example has been crucial in getting people to talk instead of fight.
Martin, Thailand

John is now getting a well-earned and overdue rest (sort of). He is the ONLY politician in Northern Ireland that has any real credibility and respect. He will be a sad loss to the SDLP who has no real successor, with any charisma or any chance of helping the SDLP to fight off Sinn Fein.
David D, Belfast

I echo previous comments. A sad day. His was the voice of moderation and calm, in the storm.
Phil W, UK

John Hume will be remembered by history as the greatest Irish politician of the 20th Century and one of the greatest Irish statesmen of all time. His great gift lay in his ability to redefine what nationalism was.
Michael, Ireland

Despite his commitment to democratic institutions John Hume has not and will not recognise the right of self-determination for the Protestant people of Northern Ireland. Until Irish Republicanism/Nationalism does so the conflict will remain. In this fundamental matter John Hume has played his part in destabilising Northern Ireland and contributing to the tragedy.
F Price, UK

What will John Hume be remembered for? Obviously the peace process and in particular his role in the Hume -Adams talks at a time when the IRA remained deadly active. No one else in the peace process took the same degree of personal and political risk as did John Hume, in the face of scepticism and hostility within his party, within Irish nationalism and of course within Unionism and paramilitary Loyalism. On any logical calculation, the risk looked much too great and on many occasions it must have seemed too great to Hume. And yet he continued - not only that but after the break-down of the first IRA cease-fire, in the face of almost universal scepticism, he started once again.

Clearly many people live today who otherwise would have died. One sees many good leaders with many different qualities. But if for nothing else, Hume deserves unique credit for this quality. Of course he will be compared to Parnell and O'Connell - but I doubt even they took such a risk. An incredibly unusual act of political leadership which crowns an unusually courageous political career.

But the same question remains after Hume as after O'Connell and Parnell. What of the great party he (and they) founded, whose accomplishment was to organise Irish nationalism into a constructive and confident, peaceful force. These men left behind a great legacy but a disoriented party in need of new thinking and organisation. That is also where the SDLP now finds itself. But it will manage the change.
McClements, Czech Republic

John Hume is an example to us all and will be for many years to come. John approached his career as a true professional, who shows respect, dignity and understand for all points of view. John Hume has led a party that has always displayed a quality that is often lacking in our politicians, honesty and true respect for human rights. I just hope that the SDLP and others in society take on board what John Hume has taught for many, many years. Peace works and give it a chance!
TG, Ireland

No doubt many will pay tribute to the "Great Man" John Hume today. However, he should actually be remembered for transforming the SDLP from a progressive coalition to the northern branch of Fianna Fail, for appeasing Sinn Fein/IRA and for doing absolutely nothing to reach out to the Unionist community, his fellow Irishmen. Some legacy.
Carsten Gring, UK (ex-Germany)

John Hume is a shining example of the decency and moderation that does exist in Ulster

Ian Vickery, UK
This is a sad day! John Hume is a shining example of the decency and moderation that does exist in Ulster. This is a man of courage and conviction who pitted himself against the pitiless men of violence. That he has succeeded to a certain extent does him real credit. John Hume braved the terrorist and is a good example of how some people might want to behave in today's climate. By demonstrating that moderation and non-violence are forces for good John Hume gave real hope to all the decent people of Ulster, Ireland and the UK that a resolution could be reached. Let's wish him well and admire his long, unstinting effort to find peace and his remarkable fortitude over the past thirty-one years.
Ian Vickery, UK

This is a sad day. John Hume plays down tribal differences and stresses "post nationalism" in an EU context. He is a responsible politician who has put the real interests of people - peace, prosperity - before the interests of idealised romanticised concepts such as Irish unity. Nationalists in NI were well represented in his decency; he was a very good ambassador for them. They should think carefully about the international image of the next person they choose to emerge as their main voice.
Howard, UK

I will be sad to see John Hume go, he has been tireless in his search for a lasting and just peace, In many ways he was the true architect of the peace process, bringing the IRA in from the cold, at what is still a difficult time, the nationalist population need calm heads and diplomacy, something that is not always evident in other parties.
Mike F, UK

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30 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
John Hume: Respected peacemaker
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