John Hume, a moderate Roman Catholic politician who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his dogged and ultimately successful campaign to end decades of bloodshed in his native Northern Ireland, died on Monday, the Social Democratic and Labour Party said. He was 83.
He died after a short illness, according to a statement released by his family.
“It seems particularly apt for these strange and fearful days to remember the phrase that gave hope to John and so many of us through dark times: We shall overcome,” his family said.
Mr. Hume, a former French teacher known widely for a sharp wit but rarely for rhetorical flourishes, rose from hardscrabble beginnings to become a towering figure in the grinding and oft-thwarted drive to end 25 years of “The Troubles,” as Northern Ireland’s strife was known.
In his campaign for peace, inspired by the example of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. Hume employed a winning combination of public exhortation against the violence of the Irish Republican Army and secret diplomacy with its political leadership, sitting down for talks in his modest rowhouse over coffee. Deftly, and persistently, he enlisted the White House to help him reach his goal.
His efforts were recognized when he shared the Nobel with the Protestant leader David Trimble in 1998, the year of the Good Friday peace agreement, which crowned his commitment to ending the seething unrest that had claimed more than 3,000 lives.
A television poll in the Irish Republic in 2010 proclaimed him “Ireland’s Greatest,” ahead of prominent contenders like the rock star Bono. In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI awarded him a papal knighthood.
Paradoxically, in bringing more radical Roman Catholic figures to the negotiating table — notably Gerry Adams, the head of the I.R.A.’s political wing — Mr. Hume undermined his own party’s appeal to voters. Battling poor health, he resigned in 2001 as leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, which he had led since 1979, without enjoying the high office that might normally reward an architect of historic change.
In 2004, he said he would no longer seek election to the European and British Parliaments, which he joined in 1979 and 1983, respectively. He gradually succumbed to dementia, and in late 2015, Pat Hume, his wife, political manager and mother of their five children, told the BBC that he was experiencing “severe difficulties.”
Throughout a career in Northern Ireland politics, where finger-pointing and recrimination amplified a drumbeat of bombings and killings, Mr. Hume stood as a voice of reason, counseling against the cycles of bloodshed, armed struggle and retaliatory violence between the Protestant majority and the Roman Catholic minority.
“An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind,” he said, attributing the comment to Dr. King, the American civil rights leader for whom he professed great admiration.
Instead he advocated dialogue and reconciliation to still the furious conflict that pitted the I.R.A. against Protestant paramilitary groups and thousands of British Army soldiers. “We have to start spilling our sweat, not our blood,” he declared.
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