Hume, Trimble receive Nobel Peace prize recipients were main architects of N. Ireland accord

'Most worthy candidates'

Naming of Catholic, Protestant designed to counter opponents

October 17, 1998|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

LONDON -- The leaders of Northern Ireland's main Roman Catholic and Protestant political parties, John Hume and David Trimble, won the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize yesterday for their efforts to end 30 years of sectarian violence in the British-ruled province.

In honoring a peacemaker from each community, the Norwegian Nobel Committee clearly intended to bolster this year's Good Friday peace agreement against its ardent opponents and doubters.

Hume, 61, the Catholic leader of the Social Democratic and Labor Party, has been at the forefront of Northern Ireland politics since the 1960s human rights movement. His advocacy of nonviolence went unheeded for many years before the deal between pro-British Protestants and Catholic nationalists was struck.

"John Hume has throughout been the clearest and most consistent of Northern Ireland's political leaders in his work for a peaceful solution," the committee stated.

Trimble, 54, once considered a Protestant hard-liner, has led the Ulster Unionist Party into the power-sharing agreement with unexpected determination, facing down dissidents from his own side to try to end a conflict that has taken more than 3,500 lives.

"As the leader of the traditionally predominant party in Northern Ireland, David Trimble showed great political courage when, at a critical state in the process, he advocated solutions which led to the peace agreement," the citation said.

Hume and Trimble came to symbolize the possibility of cross-community cooperation during the run-up to a referendum the peace agreement in May.

They appeared on stage together dressed in their shirtsleeves and arms locked with the Irish rock singer Bono of U2, who hailed their "leap of faith out of the past and into the future."

The five-member committee noted the "positive contributions" others had made to the peace process but said it considered Hume and Trimble to be the main architects of the agreement that recognizes British rule in Northern Ireland while establishing closer ties between the province and the Irish Republic.

"The committee has reached the conclusion that the two laureates are the two most worthy candidates," said Francis Sejersted, head of the prize committee.

Absent was Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, the Irish Republican Army's political wing, without whom there would be no possibility of peace -- but whose inclusion would have been contentious.

The citation also did not mention other key players, such as former U.S. Sen. George J. Mitchell, who mediated months of negotiations between people who weren't speaking to each other and forced the agreement.

President Clinton became personally involved at an early stage of the process, leading to Mitchell's role. Clinton was the first U.S. president to reach out to the province's Protestant leaders, a move potentially unpopular with America's influential Irish Catholic community. And he risked undermining relations with Britain by ordering a controversial visa for Adams to visit the United States.

At an impromptu morning news conference in his hometown of Londonderry after learning of the award, Hume acknowledged the politicians and governments who crafted the peace agreement and the people of Northern Ireland who overwhelmingly endorsed it in the May referendum.

"I think that today's announcement from the Nobel committee strengthens our peace process enormously because it tells all the people what the world wants to see on our streets," he said yesterday.

Trimble, who was in Denver promoting investment in Northern Ireland, welcomed his award but expressed caution about the evolving peace process.

"We know that while we have got the makings of a peace, it is not wholly secure yet. I hope it does not turn out to be premature," he told the BBC.

In Washington, Clinton praised Hume as a leader "committed to achieving peace through negotiation, not confrontation and violence," and called Trimble a man "who took up the challenge )) of peace with rare courage."

Speaking from New York, Adams congratulated Hume and Trimble and said he was "delighted that the peace prize has come to Ireland." He said he hopes it will have the effect of accelerating implementation of the accord.

Nobel winners

Chemistry: Walter Kohn of the University of California at Santa Barbara and John A. Pople of Northwestern University, for developing ways of analyzing molecules in chemical reactions.

Economics: Amartya Sen, India, for his work in studying the causes of famine and other catastrophes.

Literature: Jose Saramago, Portugal.

Medicine: Robert Furchgott, Louis Ignarro and Ferid Murad, Americans, for their work on discovering properties of nitric oxide.

Peace: John Hume and David Trimble, for the Northern Ireland peace accord.

Physics: Robert B. Laughlin of Stanford University, Horst L. Stormer of Columbia University and Daniel C. Tsui of Princeton University, for discovering how electrons can change behavior and act more like fluids than particles.

Pub Date: 10/17/98

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