By Patrick Markey
John Hume, the SDLP leader, and Northern Ireland’s First Minister David Trimble were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize Friday for their work on the Irish peace process.
“I think this is a clear and strong endorsement by the international community of the peace process. The challenge to all of us now is to harness that goodwill,” Hume said after receiving word that he had been chosen for the award.
David Trimble, who is currently in the U.S. as part of a Northern Ireland investment roadshow, said: “It is a great honor, but it’s not for me personally,” according to Reuters news reports.
“There are a tremendous number of colleagues in the party and people in the country who have longed so much for real peace to come. I hope this honor doesn’t turn out to be premature,” he said.
In its statement, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said Hume and Trimble had been awarded the prize for their efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Northern Ireland.
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“Over the past thirty years, the national, religious and social conflict in Northern Ireland has cost over 3,500 people their lives. John Hume has throughout been the clearest and most consistent of Northern Ireland’s political leaders in his work for a peaceful solution. The foundations of the peace agreement signed on Good Friday 1998 reflect principles which he has stood for,” the statement said.
“As the leader of the traditionally predominant party in Northern Ireland, David Trimble showed great political courage when, at a critical stage of the process, he advocated solutions which led to the peace agreement,” the statement said of the Unionist leader.
“As the head of the Northern Ireland government, he has taken the first steps towards building up the mutual confidence on which a lasting peace must be based,” it said.
The committee also recognized the importance of contributions made by “other Northern Irish leaders, and by the governments of Great Britain, Ireland, and the United States.”
The announcement ends weeks of speculation over whether the peace prize would go to those involved in Northern Ireland’s negotiations. Nominations were to be handed to the Nobel committee by February, leading many to believe it was too late for those involved in the Good Friday Agreement, which was signed in April.
The award comes with a medal and a monetary prize of more than $900,000.
Northern Ireland last won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 when two Belfast women, MairTad Corrigan and Betty Williams, won for their efforts to end the violence.