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Hume is OK after emergency surgery

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — SDLP leader John Hume is recovering in an Austrian Hospital after undergoing emergency surgery after suffering a perforated intestine while attending a political and financial forum at the weekend.

On Sunday, the 62-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner was described as "comfortable" by a spokesman at the hospital in Kusfstein, near the Tyrolean resort of Alpbach in the west of Austria. It was reported that he was released Monday afternoon.

The father of five has been under huge strain for many years as he built up the SDLP and became one of the main architects of the peace process.

With his trademark disheveled hair and bulky glasses, he has become known worldwide as a champion of peace. An ardent admirer of Martin Luther King, he consistently argued that the democratic path can marginalize violence.

He insisted IRA violence merely served to delay the peace process, and has always condemned violence from both sides of the political divide. "Let’s spill our sweat, not our blood," is one of his favorite

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When the SDLP was founded, Hume and other leaders insisted — in defiance of widespread nationalist feeling at the time — that the party statutes include the principle that a united Ireland could only come about with the consent of the majority.

The Nobel citation called him "the clearest and most consistent of Northern Ireland’s political leaders in his work for a peaceful solution."

He is donating all of his share of the prize he shared with UUP leader David Trimble to Northern Ireland’s poor and victims of violence.

In addition to leading the SDLP, he is an MEP in Strasbourg, an MP at Westminster and a member of the new assembly in Belfast set up as part of the peace process.

A former teacher, he campaigned for civil rights since the mid-1960s and more recently has ignored strong criticism when he held talks with Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams and patiently worked to bring the violent republican tradition into the mainstream of politics and forge the process that ultimately led to the Good Friday peace agreement of April 1998.

He was regarded as unbeatable when he was pressured to stand as an all-party agreed candidate for the presidency in 1997. He finally decided not to enter the race after consultations with his wife and family.

He said at the time that the peace process was a crucial stage and it was his duty to stay with his SDLP colleagues and "continue to devote all our energies toward achieving a new and agreed Ireland based on a lasting settlement and a lasting peace."

He also worked tirelessly to bring an American dimension to the peace process. This yielded spectacular success with the hands-on personal involvement of President Clinton.

Hume is personal friends with many leading U.S. politicians and is ,credited with encouraging a shift in Irish-American nationalist opinion in America to political and economic investment rather than illicit funding of arms shipments and hardline republican movements.

Very much a hands-on politician, he is also highly respected in Brussels, where he used his influence to successfully campaign for EU investment to assist economic development in Northern Ireland.

Hume had been scheduled to speak on Monday with Austrian Vice Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel on the topic "Europe 2000 — Regional, National and European Consciousness" at the European Forum in Alpbach.

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