Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said Ireland can never repay the debt it owes to John Hume for his peace-building work.
Mr Kenny made the comment in Glenties on Sunday night when he spoke at the opening of the MacGill Summer School.
He discussed the famous photograph of the Nobel Prizewinner being frisked by a British soldier at a civil rights demonstration in Derry in 1971.
“There’s an iconic image of John Hume,” he said. “Not where he ascends the stage in Oslo to accept the Nobel Peace Prize or jokes in the White House with President Clinton.
“This is a black-and-white photo of a young man with dark hair, in a dark suit leaning against a wall on a summer’s day. But he is not leaning in the usual sense. His hair is not dark in the usual sense. Nor his suit.
“This young man is spread-eagled against that wall by a British soldier, having been arrested after a demonstration at Laburnum Terrace.
“The suit and hair are especially dark because as a Civil Rights leader, he has just been water cannoned by the British army. It was the 26th August 1971.
“40 years on, the peace that came dropping slow on our island is still fragile, making it even more precious,” he said.
An Taoiseach also made reference to the former SDLP leader’s footwear in the photograph. “There’s a certain gallows satisfaction in saying for a generation of young northern men, the most striking aspect of this photo is not political or sectarian, but sartorial; its subject is wearing socks with sandals,” he joked.
Paying tribute to the efforts of Mr Hume over generation, the Fine Gael leader said; “Ireland can never begin to imagine or repay its debt to John Hume and I am honoured to be invited to give the MacGill lecture in his name.”
Last week Mr Kenny launched an unprecedented attack on the Vatican following the publication of the Cloyne report into clerical abuse. During his speech in Glenties, he added; “I believe we have made it clear about the lengths this government will go to to keep our children safe ad secure.”