John Hume with his wife Pat after his election to the European Parliament in 1979Image copyright

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John Hume with his wife Pat in 1979

John Hume’s family has asked mourners to refrain from lining the streets of his native city, as his body returns home ahead of his funeral.

Instead, they have asked people to light a “candle for peace” at their homes at 21:00 BST on Tuesday due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Tributes have continued to pour in from presidents and prime ministers for the former SDLP leader who died on Monday.

The Irish government is flying national flags at half mast to honour Mr Hume.

Ireland’s Foreign Ministry said he was “rightly remembered across the world today” as one of Ireland’s and Europe’s greatest political leaders and peacemakers.

In a statement, the Hume family said the “heartfelt and sincere” condolences they had received since announcing his death had been “immensely comforting”.

They said he would leave his home in Moville, County Donegal, on Tuesday evening and return to St Eugene’s Cathedral in Londonderry.

“John loved the people of Derry and Donegal,” they said.

“We know 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.”

His funeral Mass will take place in the cathedral at 11:30 on Wednesday, and will be streamed live on the BBC News NI website.

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PA Media

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A mural in Derry’s Bogside puts John Hume alongside Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Teresa, and Nelson Mandela

The tributes to Mr Hume, who was one of the key architects of the Northern Ireland peace process, reflected his international reputation.

Former US President Bill Clinton remembered his persistence and unshakeable commitment to non-violence, while former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, who was in office when the Good Friday Agreement was signed, described him as a political titan.

The taoiseach (Irish PM) at the time of the deal, Bertie Ahern, recalled the former SDLP leader as a force for stability amid days of violence and chaos.

‘Enormous legacy’

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson described Mr Hume as a “political giant”, while the current Taoiseach Miche├íl Martin said he was a “great hero and a true peacemaker”.

On Monday, the Irish government lowered its flag to half mast outside its Dublin headquarters and also outside Iveagh House which houses the Department of Foreign Affairs to “mark the passing of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate John Hume”.

The department tweeted that he was “rightly remembered across the world today as one of Ireland’s and Europe’s greatest political leaders and peacemakers”.

Closer to home, a book of condolence for Mr Hume was opened at Derry’s Guildhall on Monday.

Signing the book, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the island had lost its most significant political figure of the 20th Century.

Mr Eastwood compared his predecessor to the famous US civil rights leader Martin Luther King.

“John Hume was our Martin Luther King,” he said.

“He was the greatest Irishman ever and he achieved something that no-one could ever achieve before him: he ended the Anglo-Irish conflict, the conflict that had gone on for 800 years, and he gave my generation the opportunity to achieve our political goals peacefully and democratically, and that is an enormous legacy.”

The former Foyle MP and MEP for Northern Ireland, who had dementia and in recent years had lived in a care home in Londonderry, died in the early hours of Monday morning.

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