By Andrew Bushe
Speculation is mounting that Nobel Peace Prize will be awarded to key players in the Northern Ireland peace process.
The winner has already been chosen by the Norwegian-based committee from amongst the record 139 nominations submitted before the 1 February deadline.
Their decision will remain a closely guarded secret until the announcement on Friday, Oct 16. The prize will be awarded on 10 December.
The committee may have decided to single out one individual, in which case SDLP leader John Hume is rumored to be the front runner.
However, the Oslo committee could give the award as a joint prize to leading figures or decide to honor the process as an entity rather than single out any of the key individual players.
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The prize has gone to institutions and organizations in the past.
Last year the award went equally to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and the campaign’s co-ordinator Jody Williams.
If the search for peace brings the prize to Northern Ireland it will be the second time since the troubles began. The 1976 prize was divided equally between Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan, the co-founders of the Peace People.
Hume was awarded the Sean MacBride Prize by the Permanent International Peace Bureau in in Brussels yesterday. The Bureau was founded in 1981, making it the world’s oldest peace group, but the MacBride prize was not inaugurated until 1993. The Bureau itself won the Nobel prize in 1910. The Bureau award is a non-monetary prize for outstanding work for peace, disarmament or humans rights. MacBride was chairman of the Bureau from 1968-74 and president from 1974-85.
Asked in Brussels yesterday about the popssibility of him being awarded the Nobel Prize, Hume said "the real prize I want is peace."
The Nobel Prize includes a £570,000 cash award.
Norwegian news agency NTB, an avid Nobel watcher, said that if the prize does not go to Northern Ireland, other front runners are Czech President Vaclav Havel, in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the UN Human Rights Charter, President Clinton and former President Carter for wide-ranging peace efforts, and Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. official who brokered the 1995 accord that ended the war in Bosnia.
Other prominent nominations include Pope John Paul II as a symbol of peace, the Chinese democracy campaigners Wei Jingsheng and Wang Dan, the Colombian children’s peace movement and the Salvation Army.
The Nobel prize, which started in 1901, had only gone to politicians and peace activists in Europe and America up until the 1960s but since then it has become more global in concept.