A tribute to the late John Hume by Dr Carl Clowes
With the death of John Hume, we have lost not only a politician of stature but also an enthusiastic supporter of lesser used languages. John established the Social Democratic Labour Party and in 1998 won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in northern Ireland.
It was, however, for his work in support of ‘minority’ languages that I came to know him. It was as a European Member of Parliament in the 1980s that he proposed a motion which led to the establishment of the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages, a body that lent considerable support to Nant at the time.
In 1989, we held a Conference in Nant Gwrtheyrn with John Hume as one of the weekend’s speakers. He had been on the front line in northern Ireland politics for over twenty years and suffered a great deal trying to keep the balance between the various factions in an attempt to secure peace. I well remember the conversation that followed the Conference. It was a hugely successful session but as we walked from the café he turned and, in a very honest moment, reflecting on the situation in Ireland, came the unexpected – “Carl, I’m not sure how much longer I can keep this up – I’m so tired!” The expression in his voice said volumes.
Over the ensuing years he developed Alzheimer’s disease and sadly died this week at the age of 83.