I only met John Hume once. That is to say I passed him in a corridor at Stormont Parliament on my way to the gents. It was July 2000, and I was once again over in Northern Ireland visiting my university chum Kyle. I had already been friends with the North Down MP Bob McCartney for some time, so whilst visiting Belfast he and his research assistant, John Cobain, invited me to join them for what folk everywhere outside northern England call ‘lunch’ in the Members’ Dining Room.
Pinned to my jacket en route to the facilities were a visitor’s pass and my UKUP (the party Bob led) badge. Hume and Seamus Mallon walked past me in the corridor, saw my badge and quickly looked away. Being a member of one of the principle anti-agreement Unionist parties back then didn’t win you many friends – especially with the man who had invited the Sinn Fein bird-eating spider into his party’s vulnerable nest of chicks. A terrorist arachnid that would eventually consume not only his own SDLP electorally, but even more dangerously would come within a whisker of taking sovereign power in the Republic. We were up against media and political classes from 1998 onwards desperate to paint us as being ‘enemies of peace’. This was despite the fact Bob had spent almost his entire life as a eminent QC, with those same classes keen to ensconce terrorist apologists – IRA and loyalist – in power who were jointly responsible for the loss of around 2,500 lives.
Thus, to see the news coverage of John Hume’s funeral on TV elicited little from me but a sorry shake of the head. At first I thought Jesus Christ himself had been re-crucified, such were the almost deific references from the BBC, etc. John Hume may have been a good man insofar as he believed in non-violent political methods (I have news on that front: So do 99% of the population), but he was certainly no friend of anyone (such as myself) who believe passionately, consistently and unswervingly in the union of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland’s place within it. For me, the real heroes of the SDLP were folk like Paddy Devlin and Gerry Fitt, whose chief political aim was a genuine partnership with peace-loving democrats and the elevation of socialism over nationalism. Contrast their approach with Hume’s, who primarily desired the incorporation of Sinn Fein/IRA at almost any cost, who had zero interest in any punitive measures against them once the Assembly was up and running, who was determined to degradingly label British citizens in Northern Ireland as a mere ‘tradition on the island of Ireland’, and who was utterly persuaded (in the face of much evidence to the contrary) that the republican movement were capable of wholesale rehabilitation. I guess the 26 people murdered by the Provisionals SINCE 1998 prove they really, really aren’t! What’s more, I don’t think they ever will be.
Sinn Fein isn’t a proper democratic party. Its control structure, organisation, political strategy and widespread praise for some of the most despicable murderers to have lived in these islands for the past century is proof of that. All John Hume succeeded in doing was giving a party of criminals and killers a veneer of indelible respectability. The consequences today are a Stormont government that will forever remain essentially dysfunctional, and the injection of republican political toxicity into the life of a sovereign state that is the Republic. So I’ll skirt around those historians who are determined to depict John Hume as a recently-departed saint. Because I just think he was incredibly naive, fundamentally anti-Unionist and not a little pig-headed.
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