The Gist: John Hume's funeral

Everything and everyone else seems very insignificant when our view adjusts to take in the passing of a giant. John Hume's funeral was today. This is, well, a Gist.

A small ceremony for a huge figure

There’s not much to add to people’s tributes to moral and political giant, John Hume, whose funeral was today. But I do remember him giving his single transferable speech year after year to us as viewers, an infinitely patient teacher faced with a slow class.

Shed sweat not blood. You can’t eat a flag. A united Ireland can only happen if there is a unity of people, not land. Delivered looking straight into the camera and into the viewers’ homes.

It is awe-inspiring, the sheer brainpower to create that clear a description of fantastically contested and complicated issues and then the imagination to see through the communication of those ideas, endlessly repeated to reach the desired level of changes of mind.

Ireland has produced only a handful of these political giants.

What luck for the rest of us that he was there to stand above the maelstrom. By understanding people’s kitchen table conversations and seeing what they had to become, and then moving them there across decades. That single transferable speech, delivered again and again down the lens to us, to help us see.

There are O’Connell Streets up and down the country. John Hume probably would have enjoyed a bit of street renaming. But, surely more than anything, he knew there were children alive because of what he did.

By now, those children will have had children of their own.

Think of the scene at the end of Schindler’s List, as the Holocaust survivors return with their children and grandchildren, each placing a rock on Schindler’s grave, every year the pile getting bigger.

John Hume gifted us a cairn, not to inter the dead but to celebrate the living. Each stone a life saved, the pile rising higher every year.

Photo by Nogwater, under cc licence.