Death of Pat Hume

Matter of the Day – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 12:00 pm on 13th September 2021.

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Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin 12:00 pm, 13th September 2021

Ms Nichola Mallon has been given leave to make a statement on the death of Pat Hume, which fulfils the criteria set out in Standing Order 24. If other Members wish to be called, they should rise in their places and continue to do so. All Members who are called will have up to three minutes to speak on the subject. I remind Members that interventions are not permitted and that I will not take any points of order, on this or any other matter, until the item of business has finished.

Photo of Nichola Mallon Nichola Mallon Social Democratic and Labour Party

It is a sorry privilege for me today, on behalf of the SDLP, to lead tributes to one of my, my party and very many people's genuine heroes, Pat Hume. Pat's sudden, sad passing on Thursday 2 September, just one year and one month after her beloved John, shook us all. It felt like the end of a hugely significant era, because, in truth, that is just what it was. There will never again be another Pat Hume or another John Hume or another partnership quite like theirs, but we should be eternally grateful to and for both of them and all they achieved together for all of us.

In the days since Pat left us, we have had time to gather our thoughts, and, today, we reflect on a truly remarkable, resilient, radiant Derry woman, a quiet patriot who was a profile in courage and, as Mark Durkan said, an "alchemist of optimism".

We also celebrate Pat, the deeply loved mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister, aunt and friend. I send the sympathy and solidarity of everyone in the SDLP to all the Humes. The loss that we feel pales next to yours, but I hope that you have drawn some comfort from the outpourings of love expressed in the very many beautiful tributes that have been paid. The COVID pandemic has robbed us all of so much, but, in a sense, its restrictions placed Pat and John back at the heart of the Hume family, giving them a few precious, private days by the shore of Lough Foyle to say their goodbyes and to begin to grieve.

The Pat Hume whom I knew was always so wonderfully warm. To be in her company was to know that she was genuinely interested in you. She made everyone whom she met feel special, and that is one of the characteristics that made her such a special human being. Among the many tributes that poured in, one person tweeted that Pat had taught his brother in primary school and that, although he loved his mother very much, he wanted Pat to adopt him. Anyone who really knew Pat will know exactly what he meant.

From her teaching career to the earliest days of the Credit Union, through the civil rights movement to the Good Friday Agreement, and on to her advocacy for Troubles victims, Pat Hume always cared deeply about people and worked tirelessly for them. Her compassion for others was best summed up by Father Paul Farren when he noted: "Your problem became hers". That is exactly how she ran John's Derry constituency service, taking great care of everyone who came through the door, whether of the office or, as often happened, the house in Westend Park. That is why, as we have seen, heard and read in recent days, people loved her.

Pat was not one for a focus on or a fuss about her. I think that she would have blushed and brushed off the title of Derry's first lady that has been bestowed on her. In truth, the only title that she ever needed was the name Pat Hume. That is what meant so much to so many.

She was tough too: she had to be. Think back to the tragic images of one of the Greysteel funerals in 1993 — a truly horrific time in Northern Ireland — and John breaking down in tears as a victim's daughter embraced him and beseeched him to keep working for peace. There by John's side, as ever, was Pat. Imagine the anguish that she must have been feeling or the strength that she had to summon to sustain her husband and herself, but summon it she did, time and time again.

In spite of despair and in the face of danger, Pat lifted John when he was feeling low. It was to Pat whom John always turned first for counsel as he charted a course towards the end of violence, the dawn of peace and a new future for our community. It has often been said, but it merits repeating, that, without Pat Hume, we would not have had the peace process that we got or the agreement that it produced. We must never forget that, and we never will. We can all honour Pat and John Hume by making sure that our society never again sees the injustices that they grew up immersed in and stood up to challenge or the violence that they abhorred and experienced and gave so much to stop. On the peace that they have left us, we have to keep working to fulfil the new Ireland of the Good Friday Agreement in which they both so passionately believed. We have to keep going as they did. I remind everyone in the Chamber that that means upholding our responsibility to work together for everyone, to find solutions and to step up, not walk away.

As I draw my contribution to a close, I will make two more remarks. They are not about Pat Hume but to her. Thank you for the sacrifices that John and you made for peace in our country, for all that you were and for all that you gave, for the pure heart and the brilliant mind and for bringing and being that light in the darkness. Thank you for your passionate belief in the power of non-violence, justice, fairness and equality for all and for the compassion that you showed to so many, especially in Derry. Thank you for inspiring a new SDLP generation. We promise to do all that we can to uphold the values that John and you shared and to deliver the vision that you held out. Thank you, Pat. Rest easy now, back at John's side where you belong.

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

I am speaking on behalf of Sinn Féin at the request of our leasuachtarán, Michelle O'Neill, who is still recovering from COVID. On Michelle and the party's behalf, I offer our deepest condolences to the Hume family on Pat's passing. Pat played a central role in Irish politics since the civil rights movement. She did so alongside John, with John and, at times, leading John and giving him advice through those very difficult years.

Without doubt, she has, as has been said, shown the importance of her role to Irish society and to building and sustaining the peace process and giving this generation of political leaders an opportunity to make a real difference in people's lives. That is a huge testament to her life. At the end, however, the greatest loss is to the Hume family and to Pat and John's children. A mother is the cornerstone of any family home, and Pat was a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. I extend my deepest sympathies to the Hume family on the loss of Pat.

As has been said, many international tributes have been paid to her, quite rightly so. Many have stepped forward and recognised her role. The least that we can do now as a society is to make sure that we never return to the scenes of the past, that we take that extra step for courage when it is required and that we listen to the type of advice that Pat was giving back in those dark days. I offer my deepest sympathies to the SDLP and to the Hume family.

Photo of Gary Middleton Gary Middleton DUP

On behalf of the Democratic Unionist Party, I pass on our deepest sympathies and condolences to the Hume family, their friends, the city that I represent and the SDLP. When I first heard of the passing of Pat Hume, one of the first words that came to my mind was "radiant". Although I have been in politics for only a decade, I had the opportunity and pleasure to meet Pat Hume on many occasions over that time. Although there is no doubt that we may have differed politically, that was irrelevant to Pat Hume because she always had an interest in the individual. I admired her memory because any time we met, she asked about personal things: she would ask about your wife or your newborn son, and those things really meant a lot.

We use the word "radiant", and her radiance was very evident not only in her personality but in the passion that she had for the city that we all love and cherish. I know that in the recent days since Pat's sad passing, the First Minister has been in touch with the Hume family, and a book of condolence has been opened so that everybody can pass on their deepest sympathies and regards to the family.

One of my memories of Pat Hume is sitting beside her at the Sons and Daughters concert when we were awarded the UK City of Culture. It reminded me that Pat was very much a daughter of the city, as was John a son. Thankfully, they are now reunited. Once again, I pass on my deepest sympathies to the SDLP and to the wider Hume family.

Photo of Mike Nesbitt Mike Nesbitt UUP

I am speaking on behalf of the Ulster Unionist Party but I also declare an interest as a director of the John and Pat Hume Foundation. On that basis, I extend my condolences to fellow directors, to the Hume family, to the people of Derry and beyond and to Nichola Mallon and her colleagues in the SDLP. I will not pretend that I knew Pat that well; obviously, John was the front man in that particular combination. However, it is clear that while he was away, as he often was, here in Belfast or in Dublin, London, Brussels or Washington, he needed a rock back in Derry. He needed somebody to mind his back, and that person was his wife, Pat, who ran the constituency office in his absence.

In my many years as a broadcast journalist, politicians came into broadcast studios and bemoaned the fact that we were a divided society. They would say, "Woe is me" and "It's the other fellow's fault". However, John and Pat Hume preached something different: the positivity of the fact that, as human beings, we are diverse, and we should tap into that to our mutual benefit.

Of course, Pat Hume did not simply operate in the background. Some years ago, the UK Government, recognising that they had not done enough for the victims and survivors of our conflict, asked Pat, along with Daphne Trimble, to head up a memorial fund that would provide support in recognising that many victims had lost opportunities in education, employment, health and social inclusion. Recently, I read a wonderful newspaper report about their first trip to the United States. It was a 12-hour flight to California, and there they were, in the spotlight for the first time and on stage within an hour of their arrival. In that week, they raised an enormous amount of money for the victims and survivors of our conflict.

The Ulster Unionist Party has this credo: country first, party second, individual third. If you substitute "people" for "country" — people first, party second, individual third — you know all you need to know about Pat and John Hume. We are losing a golden generation. We can do nothing about our common mortality, but we can commit to not letting the legacy go. If you think of the challenges faced by Pat and John Hume and by Daphne and David Trimble and of the challenges that we face today, you can only conclude that we have it pretty easy. Perhaps part of that legacy will be to use this untimely death as timely encouragement that we all must do better.

Photo of Andrew Muir Andrew Muir Alliance 12:15 pm, 13th September 2021

I rise on behalf of the Alliance Party to pass on my condolences to Pat's family, friends and party colleagues and to take the opportunity to pay tribute to Pat.

In a previous life, I was a member of the SDLP, and I got to know Pat. We were canvassing for the 1998 elections for the first sitting of the Assembly. Pat had quite a lot on her plate that day. John was in another part of the country canvassing, and she was out in Derry helping the campaign. The couple of things that struck me from that time were her total and utter dedication to peace and to her family. A lasting tribute to her are the achievements that she and John managed to deliver. She was proud to show me the social housing that had been delivered in the city of Derry and to tell me about the credit union and the benefits that it had offered to the people of Derry. As soon as we had finished canvassing, Pat went straight to the supermarket to sort out that evening's dinner for the family. There was complete dedication to peace and to her family.

Yesterday, I took the opportunity to listen to an interview that she did with Miriam O'Callaghan on 22 November 2015. That brought real brightness and clarity to her devotion to John through thick and thin and to her complete and undivided focus on achieving peace for this country. Following her passing, President Michael D Higgins described Pat's life as:

"one of total commitment to community" and "to the possibilities of peace". The greatest thing we can all do is refocus on that and participate in and give credit to the work of the John and Pat Hume Foundation, which is an important initiative.

In closing, I will say that the one quotation that summarises the relationship between Pat and John was John saying — he said this a number of times, and I remember him saying it — that "I'm the parcel, and Pat delivers me". Did she not deliver peace for Ireland? Thank you.

Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice

I did not have the opportunity to know Pat Hume as others did. I did, though, meet her in the European Parliament on a number of occasions, when she accompanied her husband. Certainly, those encounters chime with what has been said in the House about her personal qualities. I therefore very much associate myself with the condolences that have been expressed, first and foremost to the Hume family. The role of a mother and a grandmother is so pivotal in any family that there is a particular void when they pass. I also express condolences to Pat Hume's political family. There is no doubt that they, too, are suffering the loss of someone whom they very deeply respected and valued.

Photo of Pádraig Delargy Pádraig Delargy Sinn Féin

As one of two new Sinn Féin MLAs for the Foyle constituency, I register my personal sympathies and the sympathies of Derry Sinn Féin on the death of Pat Hume. Pat was a next-door neighbour of ours for over 20 years. I will always remember her as a kind and generous person and a very good family friend.

Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Social Democratic and Labour Party

I begin by wishing our retiring MLAs and constituency colleagues, Karen Mullan and Martina Anderson, well and welcoming their replacements, with whom I look forward to working on behalf of the people of Foyle and beyond.

The Hume family will be touched by and grateful for the kind words from around the Chamber today, as they have been by the well wishes from across the globe over the past couple of weeks. Pat was something else. Many words have been spoken and written about her over the past couple of weeks by world leaders and, even more significantly and importantly for Pat, ordinary men and women in the street. Many anecdotes have been recounted that illustrate just what a wonderful person she was. However, those tributes, even in their totality, do not come close to capturing just what an amazing lady Pat Hume was.

Several years ago, the 'Belfast Telegraph' did a wee series of light-hearted interviews with MLAs that asked which three people, dead or alive, they would invite to a dinner party. One of my guests — in fact, my guest of honour — was Pat Hume. She is world renowned for her empathy, but Pat was every bit as entertaining as she was empathetic. What a lady. The best tribute that we can all pay to Pat Hume is to be more like her and to treat each other and everyone with respect and genuine care. Ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann.

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

I express my personal condolences to the SDLP, first of all, and to Pat and John's family. I concur with all the comments made by all our contributors today. It is obvious from listening to all the tributes that have been paid globally, as has been said, to Pat Hume that Pat was both a lady and a leader in her own right. Rest in peace, Pat Hume.