New bust in honour of John Hume unveiled in USA by Taoiseach Micheál Martin
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He described the late Derry statesman as someone who helped 'build our country and our culture' and that figures of such stature can normally only be admired from afar through the lens of history.
Speaking at a special ceremony in the garden of the Irish Embassy on Tuesday, the Taoiseach stated: "There are rare occasions when we have the privilege to witness this at first hand – and with this comes the duty to honour their memory.
"By any measure John Hume was a great Irishman who devoted his life to his community, to his country and to the international cause of peace and reconciliation.
"That is why is a great honour to be here today to unveil this magnificent sculpture, a mark of respect from a grateful country and fitting reminder of the extraordinary work he undertook in this city.
"John was a force of nature who used his immense energy and talents as a relentless servant in the cause of civil rights, peace and reconciliation. At the darkest moments of the conflict, he provided irreplaceable leadership, never losing faith that justice and peace would prevail.
"There is simply no doubt that without John Hume providing the roadmap, the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 would have been impossible."
Mr. Martin spoke of the great loss felt across Ireland and beyond when John Hume passed away in 2020. This, he said, was compounded by the death of Pat Hume last year.
In the presence of Aidan and Daragh Hume, who were in Washington to remember their father and grandfather, and Mark Durkan and Tim Attwood, who were there to represent the John and Pat Hume Foundation, he congratulated the sculptor Liz O’Kane, for what he described as an 'exceptional piece of work'.
"Throughout his four decades of public action, John was determined that the rights and voices of all of the people of Derry, Northern Ireland and Ireland would be heard. Just like all truly historic figures he wanted to change the debate and break the cycle of division and misunderstanding which too often lay at the foot of conflict.
"That is what brought him to this city and helped him build and renew deep connections with Ireland in Congress and various administrations," said the Taoiseach.
He spoke of how the Congressional Friends of Ireland – founded by Ted Kennedy, Tip O’Neill, Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Hugh Carey in 1981 - with the strong encouragement of Mr. Hume, became a powerful champion for peace.
"I recall also that President Biden, as a then young Senator, was a signatory of the statement that launched the Congressional Friends of Ireland. The caucus continues to count among its members some of our greatest advocates in Washington today.
"Soon after, in 1986, again with John’s guidance, and the support of President Reagan, Speaker Tip O’Neill helped to establish the International Fund for Ireland.
"The bipartisan congressional support which the Fund has received since then is greatly valued by those communities who have been supported in their work to build peace, prosperity and reconciliation," said Mr. Martin.
The Taoiseach confirmed the Irish Government will contribute a total of €20m to the IFI over the next four years to support the work of the Fund’s ‘Connecting Communities’ Strategy to help further the vision of people like John and Pat Hume.
He also spoke of John's legacy as a proud advocate of European unity.
"To understand John it is essential to understand that as well as being a proud Derryman and a proud Irishman he was a passionate believer in the cause of the European Union.
"The European Union is the greatest peace project in the history of organised states. It encapsulates our shared values – with the values of peace and cooperation being at their very core.
"John had the vision to weave the narrative of Ireland’s path to peace into the wider European narrative and his quarter of a century as a member of the European Parliament made a huge impact on the understanding of Ireland throughout our partner countries.
"John’s work is as vital as ever. Perhaps above all is teaches us the importance patience and persistence in the search for political agreement. As Yeats wrote in a different context, ‘peace comes dropping slow’."
The Taoiseach concluded by referring to the unfolding atrocity and tragedy in Ukraine and spoke of how Mr. Hume would have been dismayed by the war.
"Were he still with us, John would be a powerful voice defending democracy, defending European values and insisting on the right of all people to be free.
"John was never the loudest voice but he was always the clearest and most powerful.
"At this moment, and always, we should be proud to have known him and determined to honour his service," concluded Mr. Martin.