Nobel laureate John Hume will celebrate his 80th birthday at home today, surrounded by his family.
‘Ireland’s Greatest’, who has been in ill-health for a number of years now, is understood to be spending the day with his wife, Pat, his children and close friends.
Born on January 18, 1937, John Hume is regarded as one of the most important figures in the recent political history of Ireland and one of the architects of the Northern Ireland peace process.
In 1998, he was co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, with David Trimble, and, in 2010, he was named “Ireland’s Greatest” in a public poll by Irish national broadcaster RTÉ to find the greatest person in Ireland’s history.
Mr Hume’s wife, Pat, recently talked about his ongoing struggle with dementia which first manifested itself in the late 1990s.
Mrs Hume said her husband had “severe memory difficulties” and “doesn’t like being away from home”.
Mr. Hume’s successor as SDLP leader and Foyle MP, Mark Durkan, has this week paid tribute to him as the person who “provided us with the platform to build a better future”.
He added: “John has the appreciation and affection of people the length and breadth of Ireland for what he stood for, what he stood against and what he withstood. When the violence and intransigence of others were wounding hope and ruining lives, John stood up to keep the hope of peace and democratic sharing alive.
“He championed solidarity, social justice, human rights, economic priority and international cohesion.
“People can write memoirs that put them at the centre of the peace process, at the centre of agreement and breakthrough, but it was John Hume who drew the map, wrote the plan and led the way.
“He provided the sat-nav that brought everyone from their different and hopeless positions to the place of peace, shared institutions and stability.”
Mr. Durkan said that, through dark and turbulent times, Mr. Hume served as “an engine for change, an anchor for stability and a compass for hope – not only in Ireland but internationally.”
“In the uncertainty and recrimination of this week, questionable political standards and the wider anxieties and prejudices surrounding ‘Brexit moves’ and ‘Trumpism’, it is timely to celebrate a man who Seamus Heaney said, “Always stood in the indicative”.