17 January 2006

Hume hails conflict-resolution aspect of Agreement

Daily Ireland

Eamonn Houston

Former SDLP leader John Hume said last night that the Good Friday Agreement should be fully implemented and held up as a prime example of conflict resolution.
He was speaking to Daily Ireland ahead of delivering a key address at Boston University in honour of Martin Luther King.
“It is the duty of all democrats and all of the political parties in Ireland to implement this agreement. The people of Ireland have spoken overwhelmingly. That is the first time in Irish history that it has happened,” he said.
Mr Hume, a key architect of the Belfast Agreement, hinted that it had been built to get opposing parties in the North around the negotiating table. “When historians look at the Good Friday Agreement of Northern Ireland, they will see the same three principles. Principle No 1: Respect for difference. The identities of both communities are fully respected in the Agreement.
“Principle No 2: Institutions that respect both identities. In order to do so, a legislature is elected by a system of proportional voting, not bullet voting for one candidate, in order to ensure that every section of society is represented in the assembly.
“The assembly takes this a step further and also elects the government by proportional voting and ensures that all of the people have representatives in government.
“When those institutions are firmly in place, the third principle — the healing process — will go into action and will ensure that the representatives of all sections of our people will be working together in their common interests — social and economic development — rather than waving flags at one another or using bombs and guns against one another.
“They will be, as I have often repeated, spilling their sweat and not their blood, breaking down the barriers of centuries as our common humanity transcends our difference and, in a generation or two, once this process gets under way, a new Ireland will evolve based on agreement and respect for difference.”
Mr Hume cited Martin Luther King as one of his chief influences.
“When I first entered public life as a young man in 1968, I was very heavily influenced by Martin Luther King as we started the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland.
“I had read a lot of what he had said and quoted him regularly in my speeches. We Shall Overcome became virtually a hymn to us and our party. Indeed, it is still sung every year at the end of our annual convention.
“Martin Luther King was a very inspirational leader and his philosophy is a philosophy that is very meaningful for any area where there is injustice, hatred and conflict, as there was in Northern Ireland,” said Mr Hume.
Millions of people in the United States yesterday remembered the civil rights leader, who would have been 77 two days ago.
In Chicago, the Reverend Jesse Jackson praised King as a prophet whose dream had not been fully achieved.
In Washington, President George W Bush visited the national archives and paid tribute both to King and to Abraham Lincoln.
Mr Bush said yesterday that King “lived on that admonition to call our country to a higher calling” and “called Americans to account when we didn’t live up to our ideals”.

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