Address by Mr. John Hume, MEP.

It is a great privilege on behalf of Seanad Éireann to welcome Mr. John Hume, MEP, to the House. He is a man in whose presence we take great joy and it is humbling to seek words to introduce a man who, among a lifetime of achievements and remarkable public service to the ideals of justice and democratic government, was co-recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1998.

The greatest gift we enjoy as humans is that of speech and throughout his distinguished life he has used his gift of speech to ceaselessly communicate a vision for a society whose political and religious wounds cried out for healing. Undaunted by setbacks, of which there were many, he strove continually and untiringly and with extraordinary patience and insight to speak truth and justice. In an imperfect world, he never lost faith in the integrity of his vision or his hope for a new dawn in Northern Ireland politics. We congratulate him on his steadfastness over the many decades of turmoil, the deepest pain and near despair. We have been inspired and uplifted by his example and gentle voice — always seeking to plant seeds of hope and reconciliation, most notably at those times when all seemed lost.

It was therefore with considerable sadness that we heard of his decision to retire from active politics. I take this opportunity to wish Mr. Hume a lengthy and fulfilling retirement. John Hume's life is a living testament to the noblest dimensions of the human heart in its search for peace and justice. Truly he honours us and this House by accepting our invitation to join us today. It gives me great pleasure to formally invite Mr. John Hume, MEP, to address this House.

Mr. John Hume, MEP

Cathaoirleach, Leas-Chathaoirleach, Senators, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, it is a great honour for me to be asked to address Seanad Éireann. I am truly very pleased to be here.

Members of this House, both party-aligned Members and Independent Members, have played a very important role in the development of the peace process in our island, particularly in our part of the island. In some small way, I hope my presence here this morning acts as an acknowledgement and appreciation of that on behalf of those people, particularly in the North, who have benefited from the peace we are building.

Similarly, we could not have made the progress we have achieved, which has been most evident in the past decade, without the co-operation and support of successive Irish Governments and political parties represented in the Oireachtas. To that extent, I would also like to pay tribute to the individual and collective efforts of Deputies to Dáil Éireann who, like Senators, have done so much to work towards a peaceful and truly democratic future for our entire country and between the two islands.

Unfortunately, we now have a totally unsatisfactory situation in which the institutions of the agreement are in suspension and there has been a failure to fully implement that agreement on the part of some parties and groups. It is clear we require, above all else, to overcome two crux problems, the first of which is to see an end to all paramilitary activity on this island, whether that is from loyalist sources or those who call themselves republicans. This must be accompanied by full decommissioning by all paramilitary organisations and groups and by a total normalisation of society in the North. Second, Unionists must agree to fully and faithfully implement all power-sharing and partnership required by the agreement, including the Northern Ireland Executive and the North-South Ministerial Council.

At this time, we should remember that there are democratic imperatives. The Good Friday Agreement was voted for by a huge majority of the people of Ireland. For the first time in history, the people of this island have actually spoken about how they wish to live together by coming out in strength, North and South, to vote for the Good Friday Agreement. Therefore, it is the duty of all true democrats to implement the will of the people by implementing in its entirety all aspects of that Agreement.

One of the great traditions of this House is its ability to cast a wide view over matters of public interest and see beyond the minutiae of day to day political concerns in matters of national, European and international interest. This confers significant benefit upon democracy on this island and on the greater good. Therefore, it would be opportune now to consider the wider questions and issues which arise out of the current crisis in the peace process and consider the history of the process thus far in order to consider the present situation and future developments.

A superficial approach to the politics of our island has been to identify the fundamental issue simply as a territorial division of the island. Politics then revolves around the issue of how to end the division or maintain it, depending on which side one is on. This led us into a situation where the desire for territorial unity was acted upon by a minority in violent action and where a majority of Nationalists had no clear strategy to achieve their objective. Similarly, Unionists could only uphold their position through repression and discrimination with no clear strategy for securing consent for their legitimate rights from the majority of the citizens of this island.

As a result, political life in Ireland was dominated for much of the 20th century by the clash between irredentist nationalism and separatist unionism. Two territorial mindsets prevailed. On the Nationalist side it was assumed that because Ireland is an island, it should be one country and Unionists adopted their own territorial mindset best summed up as "What we have, we hold". In this view, the Unionist minority on the island was under siege and therefore the Nationalist minority in Northern Ireland could only be regarded as the enemy and not as fellow citizens. These mindsets led us into the protracted conflict of the late 20th century known as the Troubles.

Together with the tendency of the British mindset to see the conflict as a simple law and order security problem, we were condemned to 25 years of violence and destruction. To end the Troubles, it required us to look at the total picture and underline relations between the communities and Governments on these islands. In particular, we had to change the territorial mindset and look at the fundamental divisions on our islands. That is what I, my colleagues in politics and many people in all walks of life have been doing for the past 30 years.

Essentially, to challenge the territorial mindset is to recognise that Ireland is divided, not because the piece of earth is divided but because the people of Ireland are divided. Without people, we are only a jungle. The real Border is not the line on the map because it would not exist if not for the powerful barriers running through the minds and hearts of people on this island. The real Border is in the minds and hearts of people. Therefore, the real task is removing that border and the real task of politics is to change hearts and minds and not to redraw maps. That is why we need a healing process — one which addresses the underlying causes of division — not just the political symptoms.

Crucially, this meant that the use of violence was not only totally wrong, it was also counter-productive politically. Not only would the use of violence not advance the objective of its practitioners and supporters, it made a bad situation worse. Violence entrenches the division. In other words, the division between the people of Ireland is deepened by violence. There is no way it can end it and it breaks more hearts and simply engenders further violence. In these circumstances, the only approach was an inclusive agreement, arrived at through dialogue and mutual respect for everyone's rights, freely arrived at in a totally peaceful atmosphere — and that would be the beginning of the resolution of the conflict.

As far back as 1977, having lived through the problems in the North, I stated that only a real and dynamic partnership between all our people could solve our problems. I said:

The necessity of equality and the necessity of consent can now be promoted only by a partnership between the two Irish traditions. The road towards that partnership will be long and hard but there must be a beginning — a first step in what may well be a journey of a thousand leagues.

When we began to put forward such ideas in the 1970s, many people on both sides of the divide were suspicious. For Nationalists, it was seen as a break with tradition while Unionists suspected we were just putting new wine into old bottles. It has taken a great deal of time and effort to get to a position where finally the majority of the people of this island endorsed that analysis by voting for the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

I will briefly chart the steps along the way. The first indication that there was some hope of ending the conflict was when the Sunningdale Agreement was negotiated.

If the Sunningdale agreement had worked, we would have saved a great many lives and avoided two decades of violence. However, the failure of Sunningdale showed that we had underestimated the degree of division between Unionists and Nationalists. The suspicion, hatred and prejudice were much more deeply rooted than we had predicted. Unfortunately it then became clear that resolving the conflict was going to be much more difficult and would involve a deeper transformation of mindset than any simple political deal between governments and parties. Any agreement would have to obtain the consent of our divided peoples.

The next major step was the creation of the New Ireland Forum in 1983 when for the first time parties of the Nationalist tradition, North and South, sat down together to re-evaluate our assumptions and to try and reach a consensus on the way forward. This was of huge significance because for the first time we had agreement between the significant parties representing Nationalist Ireland — all the major parties represented in this Oireachtas and the SDLP. There was an agreed approach for the first time and that was the first major step in the peace process. It provided us with a framework on how to move forward towards an agreed Ireland that would have the agreement of both Nationalists and Unionists in Northern Ireland and of the two Governments. The lasting result was our formulation that any possible solution had to address the three major relationships underpinning the conflict — relations between Unionists and Nationalists in the North, between North and South and between Ireland and Britain. That was accepted by the vast majority of Nationalists on the island.

The New Ireland Forum paved the way for the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985 and that agreement was particularly important in dealing with the relationship between North and South and between Ireland and Britain. However, Unionist rejection of the agreement meant that we still had to work on making unionism part of the political process. The Downing Street Declaration of 1993 was designed to bring everyone into the political process including those previously excluded. Unionists were given guarantees while the republican movement was offered the chance to give up violence and take part in mainstream politics. Following the Declaration the republican and loyalist ceasefires of 1994 provided a new impetus to the search for an inclusive political settlement. As my party has consistently argued, only in the absence of violence could any political progress be made.

Eventually we arrived at the Good Friday Agreement. I will discuss the Agreement in more detail in a moment, but I want to refer to two other important factors in arriving at the Agreement. The first is the great interest taken in the resolution of our conflict by the United States. The US has been engaged in promoting the cause of peace on our island since the late 1970s when what became known as the four horsemen, Tip O'Neill, the Speaker of the US Congress, Congressman and later Governor Hugh Carey, Senator Edward Kennedy and Senator Daniel Moynihan launched their initiative. President Jimmy Carter also took an active interest. Successive Presidents have followed his lead. However, with the election of President Clinton a huge step change took place in terms of US influence, activity and support for our peace process.

The second factor is the existence of the European Union and the fact that both parts of the island are members of the EU, which has been very influential. The EU is the best example in the history of the whole world of conflict resolution. Countries that slaughtered each other for centuries now share the common institutions and policies. While the first half of the 20th century with its two world wars and 50 million human beings slaughtered was the bloodiest period in the history of Europe, the second half was a period of unprecedented peace and prosperity, with those people all united.

Before I consider this further, I would like to dwell on this point for a moment. The great lesson of European integration is that seemingly perpetual and intractable conflicts can be not only resolved but also reversed. In these days of international terrorism and war, the countries of the EU and our friends should be sending out the philosophy of peace and not sending armies. Whereas bombs and bullets only serve to deepen division, the example of the EU shows how divisions can be healed in the interests of all the people. I would like to see the EU setting up a special department of peace and reconciliation in the Commission with a commissioner and sending to areas of conflict not armies, but the philosophy and the principles of the EU because those principles will solve any conflict.

I never stop telling the story of when I first got elected to Strasbourg in 1979. I took a walk across the bridge from Strasbourg in France to Kehl in Germany. I stopped in the middle of the bridge and thought, Good Lord, if I had stood on this bridge 30 years ago, at the end of the worst half century in the history of the world with two world wars and 50 million human beings dead and told myself not to worry, that it was all over and those countries will all in a number of years be united, I would have been sent to a psychiatrist. However, it happened and it is something we should never forget. If France, Germany and Britain as well as other member states were able to put their differences aside, then it seemed feasible to resolve our conflict. In the darkest days of our conflict, the EU was a powerful inspiration, giving us the confidence that one day a peaceful Ireland would become possible. That indeed proved to be the case.

As well as being a source of inspiration on the principles of peace, the EU has also contributed in practical, direct and indirect ways. Through its regional, agricultural and cohesion policies as well as the existence of the Single Market, it has helped both parts of the island to build up the economy, change attitudes and bring us closer together. It also helped to promote better relations between Ireland and Britain. Irish and British Ministers, officials and politicians work together on a wide variety of issues in a much wider context than the narrow ground of Northern Ireland. It has helped to place the relationship between Ireland and Britain on a stronger footing. Who would have believed that members from the SDLP, the UUP, the DUP, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour would be sitting in the same Parliament? Yet that is happening in Europe all the time. They agree on many issues, so it should not be too difficult to do the same on this island.

Membership of the EU has of necessity obliged people to work together in promoting common interests within the EU. It is much more effective when Northern Ireland speaks with one voice within the EU. Making use of European Union programmes often means that communities have to work together across the divide. This is particularly the case with the special programme for peace and reconciliation.

The EU has also helped to promote better relations between North and South as people discover their common interests. As a peripheral island, both parts of the island often find that their interests are identical when EU policies are being formulated. This is most noticeable in the case of agriculture, our largest industry on both parts of the island, but there are many other policy areas where we have common interests on this island.

I want to take a closer look at the EU because the principles behind the EU are the principles behind the Good Friday Agreement. They are the principles I referred to earlier which should be sent to any area of conflict in the world. The first principle is respect for difference. Every conflict is about difference, whether it is race, religion or nationality. Difference is an accident of birth. None chooses to be born into any community, country or race. Therefore it is not something we should fight about. There are not two people in this Chamber who are the same. There are not two people in the world who are the same. Differences are inevitable and are the essence of humanity. The answer to difference therefore is to respect it and not to fight about it. That is the first principle of the EU.

Accepting that there is going to be differences is the basis for the second principle, namely, the need for institutions that respect those differences. Therefore, all member states are represented in all the institutions at every level. Every country has a member of the European Commission and a member of the European Council of Ministers and every country is represented in the European Parliament. No one has a permanent majority, nor a permanent minority.

The European Union is an extremely complex set of institutions designed to ensure that everyone is treated fairly and where everyone's fundamental interests are protected and advanced. An important issue for us is the purpose of the institutions. These are not just there for their own sake but to attain specific objectives. The treaty identifies the promotion of economic and social progress for their peoples as one of the principal aims of the member states. This is the most important principle behind the creation of lasting peace in Europe. It is a principle I always call the healing process, that is, the peoples of Europe, through the institutions, working together in their common interests, no longer waving flags at one another or fighting about them but working on real politics in their common interest, namely the socio-economic development of Europe. In other words, they spilled their sweat and not their blood. Real patriotism is spilling one's sweat for one's country, not spilling blood for it. As they did this together, they broke down the barriers of centuries of distrust and division, and the new Europe has evolved and is still evolving.

The relevance of these principles to the Good Friday Agreement is obvious, and we have begun a healing process in Ireland. It is not easy, and there have been setbacks, but once the institutions are in place and the healing process begins once we start working together in our common interest, spilling our sweat and not our blood, the real border in Ireland will be eroded in the minds and hearts of people, and the new Ireland will evolve, based on agreement and respect for difference. Catholics, Protestants and dissenters will at last look together in total agreement, total harmony, total respect for one another, which will mean total unity.

Principle number one of the Good Friday Agreement is respect for difference. It is not a victory for either community, it is a victory for us all. No one must stop being a Nationalist or a Unionist. No one has to renounce their identify or aspirations. Everyone must agree to pursue their goals by exclusively political and peaceful means.

Principle number two is the need for institutions that respect differences at the heart of the Agreement. The Assembly is elected by proportional representation so that all sections of our people are represented. The Executive is chosen on the basis of proportional representation so that the composition of the Executive ensures that everyone is represented at the heart of the political system.

Principle number three is that the institutions of the Agreement will be there to work in the common interests of all the people. When the Agreement was in full operation, remarkable progress was made, despite the many issues that divide the political parties. Programmes for Government have been agreed, as have the even more difficult problem of budgets. Some people appear to be surprised by this, but I regard it as an inevitable part of the healing process once political parties were given the responsibility of ensuring that the major economic and social needs of their people were fulfilled.

Leaving aside the major constitutional issues that have hindered the operation of the Agreement, there are many differences of opinion between the parties. This, however, has not prevented widespread agreement on the practical business of what I am describing as real politics, the promotion of the socio-economic agenda. To pursue wider and long-term objectives, people must live. The right to live in peace, to a decent standard of living, with access to education, housing and health care are necessary for everyone — this is normal politics, irrespective of people's constitutional views. The political picture looks very different when one must focus on the totality of society rather than on the political symptoms.

We cannot heal the wounds of centuries in a few years. The violence of recent decades in particular has left deep wounds. The hurt inflicted and suffered will not go away because the Agreement has been reached. The Agreement cannot take away the pain, but it is the start of the healing process. It has the potential to deliver so much for our island, North and South. Through working the Agreement, we can build a society where poverty is eliminated, where we provide the very best in schools and hospitals, where our old people feel safe, where we nurture our sense of community, where there is no place for racism or sectarianism and where everyone, young or old, can realise their full potential. The Agreement provides us with the opportunity to truly cherish all of our island's children equally. We must do so in a spirit of co-operation with our partners in the European Union and beyond.

As I already mentioned, the European Union has provided the people of Ireland with many benefits and opportunities. For that reason I am very enthusiastic about the accession of ten new states to the Union on 1 May. This will finally see an end to the artificial division of Europe created after the Second World War. This enlargement will not just see the natural reunification of Europe, but it will add to the cultural and social diversity upon which the Union is built. We will see the creation of an enlarged market of more than 450 million European citizens, which will be by far the largest single market in the world. This, in turn, will not just allow countries like ours to benefit through the inflow of new peoples with new energies and talents, it will provide opportunities for our own young people to travel and have new experiences. I am certain our small and medium sized industries and businesses, North and South, will be able to harness the possibilities opened up by these new markets so as to create new jobs.

I would like to commend the ten countries which are about to join the Union, particularly those which less than two decades ago were in the grip of imperial Soviet communism. It is my sincere wish and expectation that in joining the European Union, these countries will be able to share fully the benefits of democracy, human rights and the social market for all their citizens. I commend all those involved in negotiations with these countries for their efforts. I do not think it is too early to look beyond May at developments that will occur after that accession. I look forward, in particular, to the accession of Bulgaria and Romania, which I hope will be ready to join the European Union in 2007. Thereafter, we should welcome those other applicant states which meet the standards set down for membership of the Union.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the sterling efforts of the Irish Presidency, which at this time is contributing so much to the development of the new Europe. Great efforts are being made to finalise arrangements for 1 May, while at the same time the Irish Presidency is pursuing applications for further member states. I commend the priority being afforded to the development of a new European constitution by the Presidency following the work of convention under Valery Giscard d'Estaing. This is necessary given that our institutions were devised initially to cater for a community of just six states, whereas we will soon have 25 member states, and more. I am convinced the constitution should be based on the primacy of a Europe of equal member states. It is not in the best interests of the people of Europe to create a two-tier European Union. That would undermine the most fundamental principle of Europe — equality and respect for difference. The principle of co-operation on which the European project is based must be based on a foundation of equality and inclusiveness. I have every confidence that the current difficulties in devising a new constitution will be overcome. Likewise, I believe the democratic imperative of the agreement will eventually see it is implemented.

Working together in our common interests is the best political medicine we can prescribe. As we do so, and as the healing process evolves and new generations emerge, we can look forward to the emergence of a new Ireland in a new Europe. We do not know where the healing process will take us and how quickly it will proceed but we know it is the best possible way to treat the wounds and divisions of centuries past. In looking towards that future, I am still inspired by the words of Martin Luther King Junior which I first heard when he accepted his Nobel prize in 1964. These words, which today give us hope to move forward, were as follows:

I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and non-violent redemptive goodwill will proclaim the rule of the land.

We will now call on the leaders of the political groups and then on other speakers, probably the spokespersons on Northern Ireland and on European or foreign affairs. We will ask Mr. Hume to reply to the contributions after the questions but not later than 12.15 p.m.

I know that the leaders of each party in the Seanad will make their own statements, but on behalf of the House, and as Leader, I wish to say how honoured we are that Mr. Hume has agreed to attend today and to speak to us. When he announced that he was to retire from active public life — although I have every belief he will not actually retire — we had a debate on the Order of Business. Senator Brennan proposed that Mr. Hume be invited and we took up the suggestion joyfully, as did Mr. Hume, who in the spirit of reciprocity immediately accepted the invitation.

When Mr. Hume spoke today, he epitomised for all of us what has kept him going for all those years. His address was epic-like in its proportions, scope and humanity. Above all, it is those epic qualities which Mr. Hume possesses which have infused all his actions and all he has said over the years. We think of how valiant and courageous, but above all how full of hope, Mr. Hume has been. There must have been many occasions when hope seemed to have died, but Mr. Hume always emerged with his beliefs intact, in particular his belief that violence could be ended, that the territorial mindset of which he spoke so eloquently could be put to one side and that the mindset of people with their individual traditions could be absorbed.

We think of all the occasions over the past years when Mr. Hume has been the person who has spoken the right words which have captured the minds and feelings of people. We think of all the grieving people at gravesides, in particular the wives, sisters, sweethearts and mothers of people violently murdered. During all those years, Mr. Hume's belief in what could be brought about remained dominant. Mr. Hume referred to the Good Friday Agreement. Democracy is the touchstone. It is the one that lasts. People voted, and we have no right, north or south of the Border, to put aside the people's vote. We must stick with it.

I have a particularly fond memory of John Hume at a time when odium was being heaped on him because of a very courageous venture on which he had started — the venture of conversation, which is the most ordinary thing in the world, but which at that time seemed to be conversation with men of violence. He accepted and rose above that odium. That was a very important time, which was also referred to in this House.

Mr. Hume noted the Sunningdale Agreement, the New Ireland Forum and the events which flowed from them, which are hugely important to all of us. Mr. Hume has done us great honour in attending this House. People talking of the Seanad ask if there is a need for a bicameral system, a need for a second legislative Chamber. Occasions such as this make one believe there is such a need and this intimate but beautiful Chamber has been greatly honoured by Mr. Hume's visit today.

I have known John Hume for many years and I have always felt invigorated and exhilarated following conversations with him. There are distinguished visitors in attendance and we are very glad of their presence too. I will end with a quotation which has been used on many occasions. A splendid occasion such as this requires that we pay proper tribute to it. The quotation is from Seamus Heaney's poem, "The Cure at Troy":

History says,Don’t hope

On this side of the grave.

But then, once in a lifetime

The longed-for tidal wave

Of justice can rise up,

And hope and history rhyme.

John Hume epitomises hope and history. We thank him for attending today.

On behalf of the Fine Gael Members in the House, I welcome Mr. John Hume, MEP and MP, to the Seanad. I thank him for his inspirational address to the House.

Mr. Hume knows the level of respect he has commanded in this country. This State owes him a great debt of gratitude in particular because of his stance and his dogged determination to end violence in Northern Ireland over the past 35 years. His voice has remained consistent throughout. He has doggedly opposed the terrible physical force tradition that unfortunately exists in Irish and British nationalism. He has transformed Irish nationalism like no other person I know of over the past 100 years or so. Too often we forget that the constitutional, parliamentary route of Irish nationalism has as much emphases and means as the other more dangerous physical force tradition. Mr. Hume epitomises the constitutional, moderate way forward, the nationalism that listens to people and which understands from where they are coming. He has dramatically changed Irish nationalism for a generation by means of his contribution over the past 35 years.

One of the great accolades any politician can hear from an ordinary person on the street is a statement of for what the politician stands. Some people find it difficult to say for what any politician stands. If one asks an ordinary person in the street what John Hume has stood for, the simple and consistent answer one will get is that he stands for peace. His analysis of the problem in Northern Ireland, and the problem between Britain and Ireland, is not only the analysis of every constitutional party in this Republic, and of every mainstream party in the United Kingdom, but also the analysis of our people. That is a tremendous success and a tremendous accolade to Mr. Hume for what he has achieved over the past 35 years.

Ordinary people now understand that the British-Irish problem is one of three sets of relationships because Mr. Hume spoke about that 35 years ago. It is a problem to do with a lack of respect for the British in Ireland and the Irish in Britain, and all the other relationships which go with that. The fact that virtually every political party in this Republic now in effect holds the SDLP position is a tribute to Mr. Hume's doggedness in his persuasion over many years. On behalf of every politician in this country, I compliment him in that regard.

I agree with Mr. Hume that the two current outstanding issues are ending paramilitarism and getting the Agreement back up and running with an inclusive government. Has Mr. Hume given consideration to a suggestion I made, and which the SDLP also made just two weeks ago, about bringing Nationalist Ireland together once again, a little like what happened in the New Ireland forum in the mid-1980s, in all its shades and varieties, North and South, to speak with one voice on the remaining problem facing the successful implementation of the Agreement, namely the ending or paramilitarism once and for all and the ending of the physical force tradition which has bedevilled this society for 300 years? Would Mr. Hume now see it as important that Nationalist Ireland would come together again through the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation, so ably chaired by Senator Hayes, to speak with one voice and to say to the paramilitary parties, in particular Sinn Féin, that it is time to move on, to take the responsibility seriously on all these matters, so that we can put this terrible period of suffering behind us forever? It is a great honour to hear Mr. Hume speak in this House today. I welcome him to the Seanad on behalf of my colleagues and I thank him for his address.

On behalf of the Independent benches, it gives me great pleasure to welcome Mr. Hume to the House. It has always been a continuing difficulty which I have discussed with Mr. Hume on many occasions that because he has had so many titles, we never knew whether to call him the Right Honourable, or my honourable friend, or Excellency. I have always tended to irritate people by referring to him as my constituent, Mr. John Hume. I have been a diligent NUI voter over those periods and it was many years ago that Mr. Hume took me to that bridge at the side of the European Parliament, pointed out across the two rivers and explained to me that very point which is the fundamental of the European project. I have never forgotten it and it was long before I became a Member of this House.

What we heard today, which is hugely and crucially important, were the steps and milestones of an extraordinary career devoted to the development of peace on this island. The basic principles have always been to never allow a political vacuum to develop, of introducing the concept of parity of esteem at a time when there was no market for it, which was John Hume's by-line, and the concept beyond that of accommodating difference, which was the manner in which he showed the way forward on both sides. More than anything else, John Hume reduced the Border to a psychological barrier, and he said that again today. It is the abiding memory people will have.

The point of his career we will remember is the way he conducted his business. He outlined his vision and saw the objective, and his direction was informed by both. The way he did that was through people power, through the harnessing of the will of ordinary people, by keeping his finger on the pulse of ordinary people, by giving direction, by using democratic structures, by harnessing those at political levels, by ensuring there was a strategy going forward and by doing so in a peaceful way which brought the majority with him so many times against the odds. He never recognised the odds but always saw the objective and the bigger picture. In that sense, what he has delivered makes him the Gandhi of this island. It is a legacy which will continue and which continues to inform the way we think.

Everybody has memories of when they first met John Hume. As his colleague in the Party of European Socialists, he is particularly welcome from the perspective of the Labour Party. It is difficult to follow what has already been said. The issue about which John Hume spoke today and which strikes me most as still so relevant is that we know his extraordinary commitment against violence. What many of us have probably not taken on board, however, is something that came towards the end of his address, namely, his huge commitment to the creative power of non-violent struggle as distinct from simply saying violence is wrong. That is why my eternal memory is of John Hume sitting on a street in Derry on the day of internment drenched in British Army dye when he told people, even in the face of that type of provocation, that the way to resist was the way of non-violence. In the teeth of the most appalling provocation, he said to the people he led that non-violence was the way.

It is, therefore, particularly appropriate that he quoted Martin Luther King. A fascinating fact is that one of last Sunday's British newspapers disclosed that when young people in Britain were quietly asked who their heroes were — everybody expected it to be the long list of celebrities with whom young people are obsessed — number one was Martin Luther King, number two was Gandhi and number three was Nelson Mandela. It said much about what people really want out of politics and politicians. In many ways, John Hume's career is the epitome of that. It is the epitome of moments of great prominence but those moments are based on the dull tedium of democratic politics where one cannot make the grand gestures and where one must work at persuading people, including middle ranking and senior civil servants who persuade junior Ministers who persuade senior Ministers.

John Hume's career is one of great achievement based on two convictions, namely, that politics works and is worth working at and that where conflict exists, the only real resolution is that based on non-violence, which is not the same as accepting injustice; it is the way one uses to eliminate injustice. For many of my generation who grew to maturity during the Troubles in Northern Ireland and beyond maturity into semi-senility, John Hume is the inspiring figure of somebody who believed in another way of remedying injustice other than the "romantic" way of violence. For that, a whole generation of Irish people should thank him.

It is a great honour for the House that John Hume has attended this morning and it is a privilege to be here to hear what he has to say. We are conscious that we are in the presence of one of the politicians of the very first rank of this generation and who transcends not only this island, but Europe and the world. We are also conscious that he is a Nobel laureate. In recognising the work he has done over his lifetime, we extend to him and his wife every good wish in his retirement, which will be active.

As we stated on an earlier occasion, what we must recognise most of all is an unswerving commitment to democracy and to the way of peace and dialogue. I suppose it is easier now to think that was not such an achievement but many times, as the Cathaoirleach will be aware, we recorded the very dark days and the numbers who were killed and murdered. It is in that context that one must salute the commitment, dedication and the essential work to ensure democracy was sustained. Perhaps we do not give as much cognisance to that today in a more peaceful time as we would have in the past. To sustain that over such an extended period must have created an enormous emotional drain and psychological burden which we must salute. We also salute the integrity of the vision which was sustained over the period.

The poison of violence has been referred to and the cessation of paramilitarism is essential in all of this. The border of the mind is something about which John Hume has regularly spoken and it was one about which the late Senator Gordon Wilson, when he was a Member of this House, frequently spoke. The late Senator Wilson frequently wondered how so many people on a small cabbage patch could not agree to tend the garden. That was the analogy he used. We recognise that border of the mind and John Hume has charted the way in which those borders can be eroded and demolished.

The comparison with the achievement of the European Union is a valid one where under such appalling circumstances, an edifice of peace was so effectively constructed and has endured. There is a lesson there in that while the situation was extraordinarily bleak, dismal and difficult in the past in Northern Ireland, perhaps one has to look into the abyss, as was done in Europe, to understand the need and to reinforce the belief that the only way forward is through peaceful and co-operative means.

The Agreement remains the template. We look forward to progress in the future. We can only wonder why democratic politicians would not wish to control events and regulate the way in which society is ordered within their country. Perhaps if that was kept firmly to the forefront of minds, more progress might be made. We salute everything John Hume has done and recognise his achievements.

I wish to be associated with the tributes paid to Mr. John Hume MP and MEP, and I am pleased I can add a few words to them. It is fair to say that over the past ten to 15 years, the face of this island has changed. Some of my younger colleagues in the House would not be able to recollect fully the dramatic transformation of the island that has taken place since the late 1980s. More than any other individual, Mr. Hume has played a substantial role in bringing about that change. His role goes back further over the past 30 years. Mr. Hume was always prepared to take the road less travelled, whether it involved taking the peaceful route during the civil rights protests or adopting the same stance at Sunningdale. Most important was his willingness to engage in dialogue in the late 1980s and early 1990s with people to whom we felt indifferent and far removed.

Mr. Hume was the recipient of public odium at that time because of the lines of communication he opened with the republican movement. Members of the Oireachtas and others were critical of that, but how wrong we were. Mr. Hume was right to pursue that course and we are now beginning to see the fruits of his labour. His raw courage and common sense made us all realise that dialogue is the only way forward. The success of his mission can be seen in that we are now beginning to have a degree of normal political discourse in Northern Ireland. There is a long way to go before the type of arrangements we all aspire to for this island will be put in place, but the significant steps have been taken with Mr. Hume's assistance. For that we owe him a debt of gratitude.

As we move the political process forward, we must keep our minds open and ask ourselves if we are ready for the consequences that will flow from the type of political co-operation required to engage all sides in an overall solution. Generosity, which was always at the core of Mr. Hume's political arguments, demands that we should be prepared to reach agreement with people with whom we may not previously have been willing to talk. The lesson of Mr. Hume's work is not just one for politicians in Northern Ireland, but also one for politicians in the Republic.

History will record that at a time of great division and struggle on this island, people such as Mr. Hume proposed the principles of peace, justice and negotiation that enabled us to see some light in the darkness. We were thus able to move slowly but surely towards a better future for all the people of the island.

It is a great personal pleasure to welcome my old friend John Hume to the House. I will not go over the ground that has already been covered, except to endorse what has been said. I was particularly touched by Senator Ryan's tribute, which represents my own feelings about Mr. Hume more than anything else. I think of him as one of the great standard bearers of Irish parliamentary democracy. I would put him on a par with Daniel O'Connell in his commitment to the democratic process against all other approaches, including violence.

I am sure I am the only person in the House who saw Mr. Hume operating as a Minister in the power-sharing executive. He was first class at it. I remember sitting in the darkness one night in the middle of the Ulster Workers' Council strike. We were waiting for the people who were tearing down the properly elected post-Sunningdale executive by their own violent means to allow us 20 minutes of power during which to boil a kettle. There I was, sitting with Mr. Hume, the Minister for light. Even at that darkest hour he was talking about the new Ireland, the new Europe and how things could be improved for everybody. That is the enduring characteristic of Mr. Hume's career — he never cursed the darkness, but lit a candle instead. In doing so he gave enormous encouragement to many people who were deeply oppressed at the time. He showed them ways out through the civil rights movement. By his own great physical and moral courage in continuing to operate in those circumstances, he provided encouragement to so many others.

He redefined nationalism for all of us in terms which made it compatible with the 20th century and also in terms which led to the possibility of a settlement on this island. His abjuration of lines on maps in favour of lines in people's hearts and minds is the key. He is right that, in many cases, the violence of the past 30 years made it more difficult than it otherwise would have been to heal those divisions and achieve the ends we all want of a secure and happymodus vivendi on this island. There is a danger that, in continuing with the encomiums, we may forget what Mr. Hume said to us today. We should keep thinking about his seminal remarks.

I am glad Senator Dardis paid tribute to Mrs. Pat Hume also. All too often, we forget the sacrifices that are made by the wives and families of great men, which keep them going. I hope he will get time to rest and enjoy things with his family and that he will come back to the Seanad as a wise man — a sort of magus in this society — to help us to deal with the great issues and problems of the day.

Senator Brian Hayes suggested that, in his response, Mr. Hume might discuss how we could deal with the current situation. I would like him to consider how we might deal with two great problems. First, how do we bind up the wounds of society, particularly in the North? I have great suspicions of what I call the memory industry and I get worried when people talk about expunging records on one side, which I can see arguments for, while at the same time crying out for the fullest judicial investigations. How do we deal with that issue? Second, since Mr. Hume is a European at heart and has been instrumental in the development of a constituency for Europe in this country, how would he suggest we begin to move the Irish people from being net recipients of EU aid to being net contributors?

It is an enormous pleasure and a privilege to have heard Mr. Hume's address to the House and to have played a small part in paying tribute to what he has done for this country and for his fellow people.

A number of Senators are offering and while I am reluctant to ask contributors to be brief, I must do so. Otherwise, some Members will be disappointed.

I first met John Hume back in 1972 at the funeral of my brother-in-law, Mr. Jack McCabe. Mr. Hume inspired us in those days and in the days that followed, particularly during the power-sharing executive and the UWC strike, to which Senator Maurice Hayes referred. He still inspires us today. We were particularly struck when he spoke of spilling one's sweat, rather than spilling one's blood.

I asked a Japanese friend of mine how he succeeded.

He gave me a quote which I always remember: "Whether you believe you can or whether you believe you can't, you're right." He played tennis and he said if he went into a match and thought he could not beat his opponent, he was right, and if he went in thinking he could win, he was also right. What John Hume has done through the years tells us he believes he can. He has proved this because he has been determined and courageous and he has achieved his goal. I hope, in his retirement, he will continue to inspire us towards the goals he has set.

It is a great privilege to have amongst us the person whom history will undoubtedly judge as the greatest statesman to come out of the North of Ireland during a troubled and difficult period. His career has been the embodiment of the values of the civil rights movement — what Senator Ryan called the creative power of non-violent struggle — and he stands in the honourable tradition of The Liberator, Daniel O'Connell. He was at the centre of every creative peace initiative that has tried to resolve the conflict over the past 30 years.

Everybody regrets others were not willing to share power and responsibility with John Hume and his party and now there are difficulties sharing power on a much wider scale. I always remember one particularly potent line John Hume inserted in the Downing Street Declaration, which was roughly,

It is for those who believe in a united Ireland to persuade those who do not". However, I think the opposite is also true. It is for those who believe in the Union to persuade those who do not. I am absolutely certain that paramilitary activity will not win any converts to a united Ireland any more than loyalist paramilitary activity will win any converts to continuing with the Union.

The degree of peace we have is a great achievement. I pay tribute to John Hume's European statesmanship. I wish his enthusiasm for Europe was equally shared throughout the political spectrum in Northern Ireland.

I pay tribute to John Hume on behalf of the people of Donegal. He will not mind me being parochial because we claim a little ownership of him. He is an adopted son because he is regularly seen in Greencastle on Sunday nights in a wee restaurant. He is very much part of the social infrastructure there.

Mr. Hume, MEP

It is not a wee restaurant. It is the best fish restaurant in the whole of Ireland.

That is good public relations. I entered politics five years ago and the first time I met John Hume was in that restaurant in Greencastle. My father went up to his table and introduced him to me. I was angling to get some advice from the wise old fox but, when he found out my mother was a nurse, he was more interested in speaking to her because the nurses' strike was on at that time. He was more interested in finding out about the difficulties of being a nurse and that resonated very much with my mother, my father and myself because we witnessed John Hume, the politician, who was interested in the people and the real issues on the ground. I pay tribute to him and congratulate him.

I will pay a brief tribute to John Hume. Long before I entered politics, I knew about him. I came from a background where Northern Ireland was the subject of constant discussion and John Hume's name kept coming up at the dinner table. I understood his vision from an early age and I am delighted, having listened to his contribution, that his vision still exists. This was empathy and a desire to interact in his contribution to bring peace and mind together. That is his core principle. He is a model for future generations to work towards peace. I wish Pat and himself well in their retirement.

I am humbled to be in the presence of such a colossus of the political landscape and to be among distinguished colleagues in the House who have paid John Hume due tribute. I share the view of historian, Senator Mansergh, who equated John Hume to Daniel O'Connell in terms of his activities. One could also refer to Grattan, Parnell, John Redmond, the blood sacrifice of 1621 and the modern Irish leaders. Many young people were in the Public Gallery while John Hume made his contribution. Their sons and daughters will read about the events of the last 30 years in history classes but they will be able to say they were present in the Seanad when John Hume, who has contributed so much to the peace process, addressed it.

Enoch Powell, with whom John Hume crossed swords on a number of occasions, reputedly said a politician's destiny inevitably ends in failure. John Hume will look askance at what is happening in the North and, hopefully, he will respond to questions raised about the current crisis in the peace process. However, none of us will look on his career as one that ended in failure. His achievements shine brightly and, irrespective of how the process proceeds, his legacy places a great burden on the next political generation and I hope it will rise to meet the aspirations he loftily put together and will achieve what he has achieved in his time.

I thank Senators who contributed for their co-operation in ensuring every Senator who wished to contribute did so.

It is a great honour to be in the presence of John Hume and I am privileged to contribute. Like many other Senators, I have known him for some time. I refer to his deep personal commitment. He has done a great deal of work while travelling to many places and his energy is phenomenal. He has travelled here, there and everywhere and I recall on one occasion asking him how he did it. He replied that he did not know where he was half the time and, if it was not for Pat, he would be lost because she arranged all the flights and tickets.

Mr. Hume, MEP

I am the parcel and she delivers me.

Half these tributes should go to his wonderful wife. John Hume also has a wonderful gift, which is the ability to bring people together. He will recall Burntollet Bridge and years ago one could not imagine David Trimble and Gerry Adams even talking to one another. However, they are at the stage they are at because John Hume constantly and gently persuaded them over time. There was no bullying or threats as he took them along step by step and kept saying violence was wrong and the only path forward was through peace. I congratulate him and thank him for attending.

Mr. Hume, MEP

I thank all Senators and I was honoured to be here today. However, I will make two points in response to the points raised. First, the people of Ireland as a whole have spoken as to how they wish to live together. We do not use that enough in terms of implementing the Agreement because it is the duty of all true democrats to implement the will of the people. However, it is also a strong argument to the paramilitary tradition. It was the historian in me that began the dialogue. I knew the reasons behind paramilitarism historically and my effort was to show that, whatever about the past, they do not exist today and the Downing Street Declaration made that clear.

Paramilitarists on the Nationalist side always claim to be acting in the name of the Irish people because the last time the people of Ireland spoke was in 1918. They can no longer make that claim. Therefore, the fundamental reason for paramilitarism no longer exists. It is the duty of all true Irish people to implement the will of the Irish people.

On the other side there is the principle of consent. It has been the central principle of unionism throughout its existence that there can be no change in the situation in Northern Ireland without the consent of the majority. The whole of Nationalist Ireland now accepts the principle of consent. It was reinforced in the joint referendum that the Agreement could be put into place only with the consent of the people of the Republic and of the North. Therefore, Unionists should be told clearly that if they overthrow the Agreement they will be overthrowing the principle of consent because they will be overthrowing something for which a huge majority of the people of Northern Ireland voted. If the principle of consent is overthrown, how is the problem to be resolved in the future, other than by the two Governments working together to come up with an answer? The need to preserve the principle of consent would be a strong argument to put to unionism.

In spite of our present difficulties, the atmosphere on our streets has been transformed. Our streets are very different from ten years ago because of the total absence of tension and of troops. It is our duty to do all in our power to implement the will of the people.

I thank Senators very much for their kindness to me today. I am honoured to have been asked to come here and I hope what I said made sense.

Mr. Hume's contribution today serves to remind us that Ireland will be the poorer for his withdrawal from political life. My colleague, Senator Brian Hayes, observed that when ordinary people are asked what they think of when the name of John Hume is mentioned they say they think of peace. The words, "reconciliation", "truth" and "justice" could equally be associated with his name. He has striven tirelessly and patiently to achieve peace, justice and reconciliation by peaceful means.

John Hume is not only a politician. His commitment to the Irish League of Credit Unions was unbelievable. While it might be overshadowed, it will not go unnoticed.

On behalf of the Members of Seanad Éireann, I thank Mr. Hume for his interesting address and for his comprehensive replies to the questions raised by Senators. We deeply appreciate his kindness in accepting our invitation to address the Seanad. I wish him and his wife, Pat, the best of luck in a long and happy retirement.

Sitting suspended at 12.30 p.m. and resumed at 1.30 p.m.