John Hume, who won Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end violence in his native Northern Ireland, has died.
He was 83.
The former politician had dementia and had been ill for a number of years.
The Catholic former leader of the moderate Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), Mr Hume was seen as the principal architect behind the peace agreement that ended 30 years of sectarian violence, known as The Troubles.
He shared the 1998 prize with Northern Ireland’s then first minister, David Trimble of the Protestant Ulster Unionist Party.
Mr Hume died in a care home in his native Londonderry in the early hours of Monday morning (local time), his family said in a statement.
“The death of John Hume represents the loss of 20th century Ireland’s most significant and consequential political figure,” SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said in a statement.
“This is an historic moment on this island but most of all it is a moment of deep, deep sadness.”
A civil rights leader who joined the Northern Irish civil rights movement in the 1960s, Mr Hume saw nationalism as a declining force.
While both he and Mr Trimble credited the people of Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, it was Hume’s diplomacy that offered the impetus to the peace process.
Mr Hume, a moderate nationalist and civil rights campaigner, held pioneering talks with Gerry Adams, who was at the time the leader of the Sinn Fein party that was then the political wing of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
The talks helped pave the way for a joint initiative by the British and Irish governments in 1993.
That spawned a peace process and an IRA truce in 1994 and talks that produced the watershed Good Friday accord.
“All of us should bow our heads in respect and thanks,” Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said in a statement.
“What an extraordinary man, peacemaker, politician, leader, civil rights campaigner, family man, Derryman, inspiration.”
John Hume has died. Ireland, all of us, should bow our heads in respect & thanks. What an extraordinary man, peacemaker, politican, leader, civil rights campaigner, family man, Derryman, inspiration. May he rest peacefully & his legacy live on. Sincere sympathy with Pat & family. pic.twitter.com/XZlYg4zHap
— Simon Coveney (@simoncoveney) August 3, 2020
Mr Hume sought the notion of extending self-government to Northern Ireland with power divided among the groups forming it.
“Ireland is not a romantic dream; it is not a flag; it is 4.5 million people divided into two powerful traditions,” he said.
“The solution will be found not on the basis of victory for either, but on the basis of agreement and a partnership between both.
“The real division of Ireland is not a line drawn on the map, but in the minds and hearts of its people.”