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Nobel Prize

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John Hume
John Hume
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John Hume Interview (page: 8 / 8)

Nobel Prize for Peace

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  John Hume

Mr. Trimble, you were a controversial choice as the leader of the UUP, partly because of your very prominent role in upholding the rights to march and to parade.

David Trimble: The delegates of the Ulster Unionist Council made the choice, and they chose me. People say it's because of the connection with Orange marches, but, in fact, the Grand Master of the Orange Order was one of the candidates who was defeated in the very first round. My pitch to the council was that I was going to change the way we did things. Instead of the defensive mind set that, unfortunately, had dominated Unionists up until then I would make a serious effort to achieve things, and for that purpose I would prepared to go and meet people and talk to people that, in the past, we hadn't talked to.

Do you mean Gerry Adams?

David Trimble: Well, in the first instance, that actually meant John Hume, who was my first point of call, and it also meant going to Dublin and speaking to the Irish Prime Minister, which, again, we had not done. Gerry Adams was down at the end of that trail, not the beginning because in 1995, with the situation where we were not engaged at that stage, not engaged in a serious direct discussion with Irish Nationalists or with the Irish government. Now, in doing that and talking to these people, I was not changing our political stance one iota. We are still a Unionist party that is there for the union of the United Kingdom, and very firmly dedicated to that. What I was doing was changing the approach on things and indeed, trying to get a political agreement which would create and provide for stability, political stability in Northern Ireland. Now, from '95 to '98, we did actually achieve that.

What role did the Nobel Prize play in the peace process? What did it do for you, Mr. Trimble?

David Trimble: The Nobel Committee did say to us, that they liked to use the Prize constructively, to encourage developments that were taking place. They didn't sit and wait until you had a situation where everything was settled and there were no more problems. Then making the award was like drawing a line over something that's finished. They know that they're acting in an evolving and a changing situation.

John Hume Interview Photo
I'm glad that they have that tolerance, because what was in my mind, when I first heard about the award, was that in 1977, the Norwegian Nobel Committee had awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to two people from Northern Ireland with regard to their efforts to bring about peace, at a time when there was some hope that those efforts would succeed. But unfortunately, in the fairly short time after the award was made, that hope died, and the award was made to people who were trying hard but that had failed. No reflection on them personally, but nonetheless it did fail.

In the autumn of 1998, we'd got an agreement, and that was quite significant, but I was fully conscious of the difficulties there would be in implementing that agreement, and I knew that the agreement was not guaranteed to succeed. So my first reaction on the award was concern that history should not repeat itself. I didn't want to see 1997 repeat itself and to find that the award is made, only to find a few months later that the political effort that the award recognizes collapses. That's why I said at the time, in my first published comment, that I hoped that the award would not prove premature. We've managed to keep the process going, and have made progress since then, but mind you, we can't even say that things are definitively settled and resolved at the moment.

Mr. Trimble, what are you most proud of having accomplished up to this point, realizing that things are not completely settled?

David Trimble: One does have to point to the fact that we did achieve an agreement, that we had that agreement endorsed by a majority of the people of Northern Ireland; that despite very considerable political difficulties since then, we have actually managed to implement the greater part of the political agenda of that agreement, and we have restored local parliamentary institutions in Northern Ireland, that we have a local administration in place which is working, maybe not working ideally, but is still actually there. Those are the significant political developments that one's had a hand in and obviously, one would point to that as being the things that one looks back at with most satisfaction, but I realize that it's still work in progress.

What are the greatest challenges as you look ahead?

David Trimble: The problems created by paramilitarism, by the armed gangs that exist, by the danger that those gangs will transmute themselves into Mafia-style organizations. Mafia started in Sicily as a national liberation movement; look how it's developed since. There is a very serious danger there, and we have a lot of work to do to achieve the objective that we set ourselves in the agreement of producing a society that operates by exclusively peaceful and democratic means.

Mr. Hume, talk about what it meant to you and your struggle for peace to get the Nobel Prize.

John Hume Interview Photo
John Hume: I was, obviously, very honored to receive the Nobel Prize, but as I said when I received it, I saw it not just as an award to myself. I saw it as a very strong statement from one of the most respected organizations in the world, the Nobel Institute, of support for our peace process, and of real sympathy for the people of Northern Ireland. In that sense, since it was awarded to both David Trimble and myself, I believe it strengthened the peace process, because it showed that there was real international sympathy for our people, and support for our peace process.

Where are the big challenges now as you look at the future of Northern Ireland?

John Hume: As we look at our future, our big challenges are, of course, that we are working together in our common interests. Therefore, the big challenge is to make sure that the development of those common interests are successful, which means, largely speaking, real politics, the development of the economy. In other words, making sure that we give hope to our young people, that they can earn a living in the land of their birth because in the land that we have grown up in, many of our young people have had to leave to go to other lands to earn a living. But, the more that we ensure that to happen that will strengthen our community and, of course, it will mean that our young people from the different sections of our community will be working every day under the one roof. They will be spilling their sweat, not their blood and that will break down the real border in Ireland, which is in the minds and hearts of people, and it will break down and erode the prejudices and distrusts of the past, and build a completely new friendship, and a new Ireland will evolve, based on agreement and respect for difference.

Thank you.

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This page last revised on Sep 27, 2010 14:45 EST
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