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Monday, 1 May, 2000, 20:23 GMT 21:23 UK
Hume given freedom of Derry
John Hume
Supporters said Hume's accolade was "long overdue"
The SDLP leader John Hume was awarded the freedom of Derry at a reception in the city's Guildhall on Monday.

The Nobel laureate, who has won plaudits for his part in the Northern Ireland peace process, said he was honoured to receive the accolade.

Many of his contemporaries at the reception praised him for his "outstanding contribution" to the people of Ireland and the citizens of Derry.

But some unionist councillors boycotted the ceremony, claiming Mr Hume had failed to serve the Protestant community - a criticism he shrugged off as "knee-jerk and predictable".

We want to see a society where we respect our differences but where we all work together

John Hume

"We have a team spirit in this city and we want to see a society where we respect our differences but where we all work together," he added.

He becomes the 41st recipient of the freedom of the city, and the first individual recipient since it was granted to Sir Winston Churchill in 1955.

Derry mayor Pat Ramsey presented Mr Hume with a silver casket containing a parchment citation, praising him for his contribution.

'Tireless support'

The city's Chamber of Commerce president Alan McClure commended Mr Hume for his "tireless support" of investment in the region.

"There may be many people in the city and Waterside who owe their jobs to John's belief that economic development would have to underpin any political settlement," he said.

Mr Hume is widely credited for entering talks with Sinn Fein to bring about the 1994 IRA ceasefire.

But Democratic Unionist Gregory Campbell, who was among a number of unionists boycotting the event, said: "The part John Hume played in the early part of the Troubles was based on him leading illegal demonstrations and protests which culminated in a campaign of violence."

The Foyle MP first came to prominence during the civil rights movement 30 years ago when he led many demonstrations in protest at injustices to Catholics under the unionist-controlled Derry Corporation.

He was a founding member of the SDLP in 1970, elected to the European parliament in 1979 and has held the Foyle Westminster seat since 1983.

Peace work

His peace work has attracted many accolades, including the Martin Luther King award and the Nobel prize, shared with Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble.

Derry City Council voted in January to give the freedom of Londonderry honour to the leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP).

The DUP's Gregory Campbell:
The DUP's Gregory Campbell: "Protestants are made unwelcome"

But Mr Gregory Campbell said most Protestants in the area did not want Mr Hume to receive the award.

"In his own city, where he is MP, MEP and leader of the SDLP, the Protestant community have left in their thousands.

"Not only has he done nothing to either stop or comment on it, but his own party has aided and abetted it," he said.

The Foyle MP's supporters rejected the comments and maintained that most people felt a civic honour for Mr Hume in his own city was "long overdue".

Mr Pat Ramsey said he accepted that a sense of alienation existed among a section of the city's population but said Mr Hume, himself and other members of the SDLP had worked to foster reconciliation over the years.

Mayor of Derry Pat Ramsey: Hume is worthy of honour
Pat Ramsey: Hume is worthy of honour

"I would have to ask, what has Gregory Campbell done for community relations in this city?" he added.

Independent unionist, Andrew Davidson agreed that the SDLP leader deserved the honour.

"I certainly do not approve of John Hume's policies, otherwise I would have joined his party.

"I believe the union is the best way forward; he does not. We differ there.

"However, the city of Derry has benefited enormously from John Hume's work over the years," he said.

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See also:

24 Nov 99 | Northern Ireland
Hume could get freedom of home town
26 Apr 00 | Northern Ireland
Hume's freedom of Derry condemned
10 Nov 99 | Northern Ireland
Hume and Trimble awarded peace prize
27 Apr 00 | Northern Ireland
SDLP drive to 'renew' party
17 Oct 98 | Latest News
Nobel winner Hume soothes unionists
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