He opened talks with the IRA in an effort to replace coercion by murder with possibility through politics.
A considerable section of the establishment in this Republic excoriated him for talking to terrorists. That reaction was almost universal among unionists — and in Britain — but he persisted, realising that every other initiative had failed.
Mr Hume’s bravery, one that put his life in jeopardy, came to a fruition of sorts yesterday when Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and Prince Charles shook hands at University College Galway. Even a decade ago both men might have scoffed at the prospect.
In ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’, sited close to where Prince Charles and President Michael D Higgins dined last evening, WB Yeats wrote: “And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow.”
Even if the timescales involved in our relationship with our nearest neighbour are often deeply frustrating, the progress represented by yesterday’s brief encounter cannot be underestimated, especially as Prince Charles will visit Mullaghmore where his mentor and grand-uncle Louis Mountbatten was murdered by the IRA in 1979.
Peace drops slowly indeed, but it is worth the wait.
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