If, as that other great Northern leader vilfied by RTÉ and the mainstream press, former President Mary McAleese, contends, peace is a journey rather than a destination then John Hume was surely the beacon who led us through the nightmare of 30 years of violence to the promised land of peace.

For he strode across the political landscape like a colossus, unrelenting in his opposition to violence from any quarter and unstinting in his determination to find a solution to our differences around the negotiating table rather than on the battlefield.
A man of deep empathy and compassion — who can forget him breaking down and crying at the funerals of the Greysteel murder victims? — he refused to give in to the dark prophets of doom who insisted that the conflict here was beyond solving.

His favourite party piece, The Town I Loved So Well, may as well have been written for him by Phil Coulter — for its one verse captured his undying love for his native Derry and his belief that peace would win the day.
Now the music's gone but they carry on
For their spirit's been bruised, never broken
They will not forget but their hearts are set
On tomorrow and peace once again
Now what's done is done and what's won is won
And what's lost is lost and gone forever
I can only pray for a bright brand new day
For the town I Iove so well.
Though vilified by RTÉ, the Irish Independent newspaper group, assorted revisionist columnists and the entire unionist leadership — we use that term advisedly for leadership from that quarter was sadly lacking — for launching the Hume-Adams talks, he paid no heed to the nay-sayers but kept his eye firmly on the prize.
It’s no secret that his overtures to the IRA were not popular with all the SDLP grassroots but it’s fair to say that in Belfast, where the people paid a heavy price for the years of warfare, key party repesentatives such as Dr Joe Hendron backed his approach.

The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to John Hume in 1998 was not just a personal affirmation for him of the worth of his work but also evidenced his global standing.
He was the Irish Martin Luther King Jr. and more than anyone else deserves the credit for delivering the Good Friday Peace Agreement.

And of course, that peace agreement is more than just words on a page. Its real measure is in the hundreds and, indeed, thousands of people who would be dead today if it were not for the vision, the passion, the courage and the genius of John Hume.

May he rest in peace.

Ar dheis láimh Dé go raibh sé.