In a memoir, “John Hume — Personal Views: Politics, Peace and Reconciliation in Ireland,” Mr. Hume described how his father took him to a Republican meeting in the late 1940s.
“They were all waving flags and stirring up emotion for the united Ireland and an end to partition,” he wrote. “When my father saw that I was affected, he put his hand gently on my shoulder and said, ‘Son, don’t get involved in that stuff,’ and I said, ‘Why not, Da?’ He answered simply, ‘Because you can’t eat the flag.’ That was my first lesson in politics and it has stayed with me to this day.”
He won a scholarship to St. Columb’s College, a grammar school for the small elite of middle-class Catholic professionals, and studied for the priesthood before switching to a degree course in French and history. In his 20s he taught French and became a leading figure in both the civil rights movement and the fledgling credit union movement.
In 1960, after three years of courtship, he married Pat Hone, a fellow teacher. At one point, alongside their teaching, the couple ran a modest smoked-salmon business.
As a politician with rising influence, Mr. Hume was instrumental in preparing the Anglo-Irish agreement of 1985. The pact gave the Irish Republic, for the first time, a consultative role in the affairs of the North, but it also guaranteed that no change in the territory’s political status could be made without the consent of its Protestant majority. He remained close to leading political figures in the United States and was an energetic salesman for the territory, helping persuade companies to move there.
When Jean Kennedy Smith, the older sister of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, was appointed ambassador to the Irish Republic in 1993, Mr. Hume became one of her constant advisers. She responded by helping persuade President Clinton to end American sanctions against Sinn Fein and to support the inclusion of Mr. Adams and Sinn Fein at the peace talks.
A committed European, Mr. Hume believed that just as Western European borders were weakened to encourage trade, so could the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic be gradually eliminated as the economies of the two parts of the island became interdependent.