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John Hume, Nobel Laureate in Northern Ireland, dies at age 83

In a memoir, “John Hume – Personal Opinions: Politics, Peace, and Reconciliation in Ireland,” Hume described how his father took him to a Republican rally in the late 1940s.

“They all waved flags and aroused feelings for the United Ireland and an end to the partition,” he wrote. “When my father saw that I was affected, he gently put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘Son, do not engage in that,’ and I said, ‘Why not, Da?’ He simply replied, “Because you can not eat the flag.” It was my first lesson in politics and it has stayed with me today. “

He won a scholarship to St. Columb’s College, a grammar school for the small elite among middle-class Catholic professionals, studied for the priesthood before switching to a degree in French and history. In the 1920s, he taught French and became a leading figure in both civil rights and the new credit union movement.

In 1960, after three years in prison, he married Pat Hone, a teacher. At one point, along with their teaching, the couple ran a modest smoked salmon business.

As a politician with increasing influence, Mr. Hume played an important role in the preparation of the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985. The pact gave the Irish Republic an advisory role in Nordic affairs for the first time, but it also guaranteed that no change in the territory’s political status could be made without the consent of its Protestant majority. He remained close to leading political figures in the United States and was an energetic salesman for the territory, helping persuade companies to move there.

When Jean Kennedy Smith, the senator’s older sister Edward M. Kennedy, was appointed Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland in 1993, Hume became one of her permanent advisers. She responded by helping persuade President Clinton to end US sanctions against Sinn Fein and to support the incorporation of Adams and Sinn Fein into the peace talks.

A committed European, Mr Hume believed that just as the borders of Western Europe weakened to encourage trade, so the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland could be gradually eliminated as the economies of the two parts of the island became interdependent.

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