Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 21 Oct 1998

Vol. 156 No. 14

Tributes to Nobel Peace Prize Winners.

I take this opportunity to congratulate John Hume and David Trimble on winning the Nobel Peace Prize. It is a fitting tribute to two courageous politicians who have taken tremendous risks in their search for lasting peace. It has to be seen as a major encouragement to the peace process and to all those who brought about its creation.

John Hume has given all his political life to the pursuit of peace and to the building of a new society in Northern Ireland. This recognition has long been earned. David Trimble deserves great credit for the leadership he has given to the Unionist community and for his valuable contribution to the peace process. I hope such well deserved recognition will encourage all parties involved to continue to strive for a full and lasting peace.

Probably the most prestigious prize in the world today, the Nobel Peace Prize, is a reminder that we are all involved in the ongoing road to peace and stability. It is a clear and powerful statement of support by the international community for the peace process. The world is watching with admiration and it is willing us all on. We must continue to work together to overcome the remaining obstacles.

On behalf of my party we are happy to be associated with this vote of congratulation to the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. In the case of John Hume it is a recognition of a lifetime of consistent dedication to the principles of democracy and reconciliation. Never, even in the darkest days of rejection, has the SDLP or John Hume wavered one iota from their commitment to a peaceful democratic resolution of our problems. Over all these years John Hume has held a vision of what might be, of how this island might be shared between the peoples on it. The Nobel Peace Prize is a just vindication and recognition of what he has been doing over this period.

David Trimble has come only lately to leadership. He has come a very long way in facing up to, as John Hume did, and persuading many of his people to accept difficult and unpalatable truths about the nature of the situation in Northern Ireland. He has shown great courage, consistency and constancy over the past number of years since he became leader. It is everybody's hope that the recognition he has achieved will prove important in persuading those on the Unionist side who still have doubts to follow his leadership.

There are many others who should be associated with this prize. As John Hume said, this was not a prize for two people. There are many others who should be associated with it — Séamus Mallon, Ken Maginnis and others who, over the years, have fought for the same principle. There is also the Alliance Party and the hundreds, if not thousands, of community workers who have, in an unglamorous way, sought to build bridges in their communities. It is especially appropriate that we should remember today our colleague, Gordon Wilson, who by his testimony at Ennis-killen moved the world and did an enormous amount of good in assisting the process of reconciliation. We honour those who have consistently sought and fought over the years to uphold the principles of democracy, peace and reconciliation. That is what the Nobel Peace Prize is about.

Mr. Ryan

I congratulate the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. John Hume is a man in comparison to whom most of us seem insignificant in terms of commitment and conviction. It is undoubtedly true that David Trimble has provided an extraordinary degree of leadership.

However, the Nobel Peace Prize might have been more generously awarded to all the signatories of the British-Irish Agreement who have in their own way, big or small, from the two main parties to the Women's Coalition, struggled to build a new society. People approached it from different positions and angles. When John Hume began his most recent pursuit of peace, the initiation of dialogue with Sinn Féin, he was a far from popular figure in this House or in the media. The person who responded to that was one of the signatories to the British-Irish Agreement.

I am a great believer in inclusiveness and in recognising those who take risks for peace, regardless of from where they come. People from all backgrounds in Northern Ireland have taken risks and have suffered for peace. A more appropriate symbol of the hoped for transformation of Northern Ireland would have been a Nobel Peace Prize which included the two people who won and also those who contributed to the process, for example, the signatories to the British-Irish Agreement.

On behalf of the Labour Party, I join with the tributes paid and offer my congratulations to both John Hume and David Trimble. John Hume is undoubtedly the towering figure in Northern Ireland in leadership terms and has been so for the past 30 years. No one can be in any doubt about his contribution or leadership and the initiatives he took. He is a man of vision who was not afraid to develop his ideas and take the necessary steps, for example, his courageous dialogue with Gerry Adams and Sinn Féin which everyone opposed. He has shown enormous leadership qualities.

David Trimble, who comes from a very different background, has shown tremendous and courageous leadership over the past number of years. His inclusion in the Nobel Peace Prize is a case of looking to the future, as much for the leadership it is hoped he will continue to give in the years to come as for the leadership he has shown over the past years.

I congratulate both for espousing peace and democracy as the only way forward to reconciliation and a permanent solution in Northern Ireland. I congratulate all those who are equally deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize, be they national leaders, such as the Taoiseach, the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, or President Clinton, or the various groups, such as the Alliance Party, the Women's Coalition, David Ervine and Billy Hutchinson. They all played their part and must be congratulated.

All of us would agree that the award of this year's Nobel Peace Prize to John Hume and David Trimble is well merited. However, both we and they would say that it reflects the efforts of a great number of people over many years who espoused constitutional politics as the way forward. They rejected violence and were single minded in their determination.

The award does no more than recognise the contribution that has been made by so many people over that period. John Hume has been so single minded and consistent in his approach and his leadership over 30 years or more that one can only stand in admiration. It is true to say that he, more than anybody, brought the people to Stormont to begin the process which led to the British-Irish Agreement.

Mr. Trimble was one of the main instruments in securing that agreement and in bringing the majority of the Unionist population with him to a point where all sides could agree to a peaceful way forward. For that reason the award is well merited.

It is also appropriate for us to remember the contribution that Members of this House made to the peace process. Significant contributions were made by Séamus Mallon and the late Gordon Wilson. Their testimony has been an important and lasting element in constitutional politics on both sides of the Border, ensuring that peace is the only way forward. We hope the award of the Nobel Prize will give all political leaders in Northern Ireland, Great Britain and the Republic the courage to carry on to secure the lasting peace we all desire.

When tributes are being paid it is customary that only leaders of groups are called but on this occasion, with the agreement of the House, I am happy to call Senator Haughey. Is that agreed? Agreed.

It is a great pleasure for me to congratulate two men who are the recipients of what is probably the greatest prize in the world. I concur entirely with the sentiments expressed by the Leader of the House, Senator Cassidy, the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Manning, and all the other speakers.

John Hume has been consistent but, all the more so, he has the right to be proud, as have the people of Derry. He has brought another great prize to that city. Derry is the only city in western Europe that has two Nobel prize winners in its midst.

With his usual caution, Mr. Trimble said he hoped the prize was not premature. I hope likewise, but I do not think it is. The people of the world have endorsed the people of Ireland who said yes. To that extent it has to be an enormous endorsement and encouragement to those who are trying so hard at present to bring peace and accord among the people of this island.