John Hume’s “determination, courage, persistence and vision” has shaped the Ireland we live in today.
This is the view of Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore who paid a glowing tribute to the Nobel Laureate at the annual MacGill Summer School in Glenties at the weekend.
Delivering the 2012 John Hume Lecture, Mr. Gilmore hailed the Derry man as a “man who stood courageously for the core labour values of civil rights, equality and peaceful democratic politics.”
He added: “One of my abiding memories of John Hume is from late 1993 when he was moved to tears at the funeral of the victims of the Greysteel massacre.
“It was one of the darkest moments of the Troubles – a low point of sectarianism that threatened to drown the tentative moves towards peace.
“But it was also a turning point - a moment when people saw the vital necessity of dialogue. That dark and difficult time was almost 20 years ago. The Ireland we live in today is virtually unrecognisable. The Troubles as we knew them are at an end.
“We have a functioning power-sharing government in Northern Ireland. Ministers from North and South of the border meet regularly in a North-South Ministerial Council to discuss matters of common interest. And the visit of Queen Elizabeth has opened a whole new chapter in the relationship between Ireland and Britain, which was subsequently documented in the joint statement of the Taoiseach and Prime Minister Cameron.
“Who would have thought that any of this was possible only twenty years ago?”
During his speech, Mr. Gilmore revealed that he feared for the financial survival of the Irish State.
But he said that, following agreement at the European summit on Ireland’s bank debt, and given the progress that it has made on a number of core economic issues, “our prospects of economic recovery have been substantially improved.”
He added that the core task of his government “is to deal with the deep economic crisis that we inherited, and to build a sustainable economic recovery”.
Comparing Ireland 20 years ago to today, the Tanaiste said: “We can see that from great moments of crisis, can also come great change”.
Mr. Gilmore said that change will depend not just on the actions of governments but “on the willingness of individuals both to embrace and work for change”.
“Reforming and rebuilding the state is not, therefore, just an exercise in constitutional amendment, the changing of laws or the remaking of institutions.”
He added that: “At times of crisis, it is all too easy to turn inwards.”
“We can no longer think of reform and rebuilding this State as a purely domestic project.
“Our state does not stand in splendid isolation,” said Gilmore, noting Ireland’s role within the wider context of the European Union and the rest of the world.”