The European Parliament Liaison Office recently held an exhibition at Trinity College Dublin to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement and to celebrate one of that momentous occasion's principal architects. John Hume (1937-2020) was a man, in the words of Seamus Heaney, that "made hope and history rhyme".
The exhibition was opened by former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, who will always be remembered for his own contribution towards the Good Friday Agreement, when he made great personal sacrifice to be present in Stormont to help get the agreement over the line. And during which time he worked closely with all the party leaders in the North including, of course, John Hume.
The exhibition, which started in London, will go on to the University of Ulster and highlights Hume's role in the peace process and features a bust of Hume by Elizabeth O'Kane, a sculptor and painter, originally from Northern Ireland, now working in Dublin.
An MEP for quarter of a century, European of the Year, and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Hume worked tirelessly to broker peace and reconciliation in his native land. He grew up in Derry/Londonderry and was a near-contemporary of another Nobel Prize winner and friend, the poet Seamus Heaney. The everyday injustices of life in the north and especially in his divided hometown led Hume to join the civil rights movement in the 1960s and to forge a philosophy encapsulated in this quote: "Difference is of the essence of humanity. Difference is an accident of birth and it should therefore never be the source of hatred or conflict. The answer to difference is to respect it. Therein lies a most fundamental principle of peace: respect for diversity."
A passionate advocate for European integration, Hume said: "The union of Europe was the inspiration for our [Good Friday] agreement. The first time I went to Strasbourg in 1979 as a Member of the European Parliament, and I went to neighbouring Germany, I thought that if, in 1945, someone had said that these two countries would be reunited in Europe and that Strasbourg would be the symbol city of this hope, they would have been sent to the psychiatrist. The European Union is the best example of conflict resolution in the history of the world. All the regions at war must study the way in which Europe was built."
As President Metsola wrote in her foreword to a recent compilation of Hume's addresses to the European Parliament: "We celebrate his legacy of peace. His strong voice in defending European values and democracy is one we remember particularly with the return of war on our continent."