Former SDLP leader and Nobel laureate John Hume has made his final journey home to his native Derry.
His body was brought from Moville in Co Donegal, 18 miles across the border, to St Eugene’s Cathedral in the city ahead of his funeral tomorrow.
A socially-distanced guard of honour made up of party activists watched on as the procession made its way to the doors of the cathedral.
They held candles in memory of the man feted around the world as a peacemaker, in line with the family’s wishes.
Mr Hume was a key architect of Northern Ireland’s Good Friday Agreement and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for the pivotal role he played in ending the Troubles.
He died on Monday aged 83, having endured a long battle with dementia.
His widow Pat was tightly embraced by a family member as she watched her husband’s coffin being carried inside the cathedral.
In ordinary circumstances, Mr Hume’s removal service and subsequent funeral would have been expected to draw huge crowds, but numbers were limited due to coronavirus restrictions.
A number of members of the public turned out to watch the cortege arrive at the cathedral, while others fulfilled the family’s wishes to light a candle for peace at 9pm in Mr Hume’s memory.
The funeral service will be broadcast on Wednesday morning by the BBC and RTÉ.
Mr Hume’s widow, Pat, and other family members had urged people to stay at home and instead light a candle for peace.
“John loved the people of Derry and Donegal,” the family said.
His family added: “We know that he would have prioritised public health and the safety and health of our communities.
“We’re asking people to follow that guidance – please do not put yourself or others at risk. Instead, we would ask that people light a candle for peace at 9pm in their homes or at their door.”
President Michael D Higgins honoured that wish, as well as Taoiseach Micheál Martin, both tweeting pictures of lit candles in Mr Hume’s memory.
Tonight we join together to light a candle for peace and reflect on the huge contribution John Hume made to our society. He brought people together and secured peace on this island. He truly was “Ireland’s Greatest”. Thank you John #JohnsLight pic.twitter.com/Y19HAxsGtB— Micheál Martin (@MichealMartinTD) August 4, 2020
Stormont Justice Minister Naomi Long and Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson also lit candles for Mr Hume.
Father Paul Farren, from St Eugene’s Cathedral, said: “Pat and her family are very grateful for the outpouring of love and support following the death of their beloved John.
“The family are anxious that a public gathering for John’s funeral might inadvertently put someone’s health at risk in the context of the current Covid-19 pandemic, and are asking that people express their grief by staying at home and joining with the Hume family in a Celebration of Light for Peace.
“This Celebration of Light for Peace is a fitting tribute to a much-loved and distinguished Irishman.”
Mr Hume, a former MP, Stormont Assembly member and MEP, was a founding member of the party he went on to lead for 22 years.
He was a key figure in the civil rights campaigns of the late 1960s and also played a leading role in the formation of the credit union movement.
Throughout his political career, he remained steadfast in his commitment to non-violence.
His participation in secret talks with then Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams in the late 1980s and early 1990s was a key catalyst for the nascent peace process.
The SDLP leader faced intense criticism, including some from within his own party, when his dialogue with Mr Adams became public in 1993.
Despite threats to his life, he persisted with his efforts to engage with the republican movement and to convince the IRA to end its campaign of violence.
The highlight of Mr Hume’s career came in 1998 with the signing of the historic Good Friday accord which largely ended Northern Ireland’s 30-year Troubles.
Along with UUP leader David Trimble, Mr Hume was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his contribution to stopping the bloodshed.
In 2010, Mr Hume was named “Ireland’s Greatest” in a poll by Ireland’s national broadcaster RTÉ.
His death came just six months after that of fellow Good Friday architect and long-time SDLP deputy leader Seamus Mallon.
The removal has taken place this evening of John Hume's remains from Donegal to the Cathedral of St Eugene in Derry.
The former SDLP leader and Nobel laureate was brought home to the city from Moville, across the border in Co Donegal ahead of his funeral service on Wednesday morning.
Mr Hume died at the age of 83 on Monday.
His family have asked people to light a candle at 9pm tonight to pay their respects, rather than line the streets.
A socially distanced guard of honour made up of SDLP party activists lined the path from the gate at St Eugene’s Cathedral for the arrival of the cortege.
Speaking earlier today Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown said as well as sadness, there is a feeling of great pride in the city of the 83-year-old's achievements.
Bishop McKeown said: "I know just from talking to Derry people over the past 36 hours that there was a mixture of sadness that John is gone.
"This was his parish and he went nearly every day to Mass when he was fit to and pride in what one of them has achieved.
"Somebody who could stride the world stage and yet was keen to know who the neighbour was."
Mr Hume's family said they were "very grateful" to the public for the reaction to the news of Mr Hume's death.
Yesterday numerous tributes were paid by national and international leaders to Mr Hume's memory.
Former US President Bill Clinton said the former SDLP leader fought a long war for peace.
“His chosen weapon: an unshakeable commitment to non-violence, persistence, kindness and love. With his enduring sense of honour he kept marching on against all odds towards a brighter future for all the children of Northern Ireland,” he said.
Online books of condolences have been opened by a number of local authorities across Ireland.