Hume Says Popular Support For Peace in Northern Ireland Has Strengthened

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

Nobel Peace Prize nominee John Hume reaffirmed his confidence in the Northern Irish peace process during an appearance Tuesday night in Devlin Hall.

"Victories are not solutions in divided societies," said Hume, leader of the Social Democratic and Labor Party of Northern Ireland. "We must re-examine the past attitudes which built the walls dividing us. We must come to the table and reach an agreement."

Hume was on hand to sign copies of his recent book A New Ireland and offer his perspective on the forthcoming British-Irish negotiations (click here to see photo of Hume's visit). It was his first visit to the campus since he addressed the graduates and received an honorary degree at last year's Commencement Exercises.

In a brief interview before his remarks, Hume recalled the optimism over the Irish Republican Army's cease fire declaration which was present on Commencement Day and in late 1994. That hopefulness should serve as a basis for renewed efforts at achieving a lasting peace, he said.

"I think the mood of the people was transformed by the 17 months of ceasefire," Hume said. "It strengthened the will of the people to seek peace, especially of those under 30 years of age, who had never known peace before."

Unfortunately, he continued, "we had a ceasefire, but not an agreement," and the delay in setting up negotiations proved a serious setback. But the ground swell for peace is unmistakable, Hume said, and comes from many sources besides Northern Ireland.

"We are living in a smaller world today," he said. "When your ancestors left Ireland, we would have an American wake, because we knew we would likely never see them again. But we are all much closer now because of technology and I think we therefore share the same hopes."

University President J. Donald Monan, SJ, introduced Hume as "the most beloved man in Ireland" who "is a close friend [and] very much at home here at Boston College." He noted the timeliness of Hume's visit, coming so close to the feast of St. Patrick, the third anniversary celebration of the Center for Irish Management - which sponsored Hume's appearance - and Irish America magazine's honoring of Irish Studies Program Co-director Adele Dalsimer the previous night.

In his remarks, Hume reiterated the importance of the support shown by President Clinton and many Americans for the peace process.

"I have been very encouraged in getting the same, powerful message for peace to continue," Hume said. "It is a message I will take back to Ireland with me and I hope it is one the IRA will hear and respond to."

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