25 June 2005


New Bedford gets a visit from a Nobel Irishman

Standard-Times staff writer

John Hume isn't a man who would likely put a "26+6=1" sticker on his car's bumper.
The 1998 Nobel Prize winner avoids that call for a unified Ireland and instead calls for an "agreed Ireland."
Mr. Hume, 68, is the former Irish Catholic member of Parliament who negotiated the Good Friday peace accords with Protestant leader David Trimble.
He was in New Bedford yesterday visiting with the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick and their supporters.
The Irish-American fraternal organization is celebrating today's dedication of a monument to area Irish Americans. A Celtic cross, located at Fort Taber adjacent to the Acushnet River, will be dedicated at 1 p.m.
Mr. Hume avoids talk of a united Ireland lest he offend Protestant militants.
His "agreed Ireland" is a place in which Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland will determine their future through peaceful means.
The Good Friday accords -- which outline a governing scheme for Protestants and Catholics sharing power -- will ultimately lead to peace in his troubled homeland, Mr. Hume said.
"For the first time in history, the people of Northern Ireland voted on how they are going to live together," he said of the elections that followed the peace agreement brokered by former Maine Sen. George Mitchell.
Since the Good Friday accords, the streets of Irish trouble spots like his home town of Londonderry (Derry) are calm, he said.
"No longer can the paramilitary organizations (such groups as the Irish Republican Army and Ulster Defense League) claim -- as they always have -- to be representing the people," he said.
As younger Protestants and Catholics spend their lives working out differences through the ballot box instead of with guns, they will not go back to violence, he said.
"If we have 25 to 30 years of Catholics and Protestants working together to build a society, you don't think that'll change attitudes?" he asked.
All change takes time, Mr. Hume acknowledged, but he insisted change is on its way for a country that has been fighting for 400 years.
"The structures are in place for it to come," he said.
"In a generation or two, there'll be a new Ireland," he said.
Mr. Hume said that the late Congressman Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy played key roles in changing the atmosphere in Northern Ireland.
"We owe a deep debt of gratitude to your public representatives in Massachusetts," he said.
They were instrumental in convincing President Jimmy Carter to become the first American president to recognize the problems of the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland, he said.
When Rep. O'Neill visited Ireland, Mr. Hume researched where the late American politician's Irish grandmother had been born and took him there, he said.
The only way forward for Ireland is by forging agreements through peaceful means, he said.
"Having gone through what I've gone through for 30 years -- seeing people killed in our streets -- I don't want to see that happening anywhere," he said.
The Irish peace model, is based on the same respect for diversity that is the model for American democracy and the European union, he said.
"The essence of our community is respect for diversity," he said.
"E pluribus unum."

Contact Jack Spillane at jspillane@s-t.com

This story appeared on Page A1 of The Standard-Times on June 25, 2005.

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