An Atlanta nonprofit is petitioning the city’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade committee to honor a Nobel laureate from Northern Ireland this year.
Atlanta: City of Peace wants John Hume, who was jointly awarded the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in ending Northern Ireland’s “Troubles,” to be named grand marshal of the popular parade.
Mr. Hume was a longtime member of the British parliament who tirelessly advocated for the end of hostilities between Northern Ireland, a British province, and the Ireland Republican Army, which sought reunification of the island. More than 3,000 people were killed over more than three decades of conflict that ended with the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
Inspired by the nonviolent movement of Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s, Mr. Hume preached civil rights and nonviolence in the ensuing decades. He later exploited the Irish diaspora’s influence on the American politics to bring about pressure against the IRA.
His efforts during that period are the subject of “In The Name of Peace: John Hume In America,” a documentary narrated by actor Liam Neeson that includes interviews with former U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.
A screening in Atlanta supported by the local Irish consulate was held in October as part of a tour across North America.
John Naugle, founder of Atlanta: City of Peace, aims to position Atlanta as a key nexus of civil and human rights initiatives around the world.
He said in his three-page petition that now, 20 years after his Nobel Prize, is the right time to recognize Mr. Hume locally as a hero, given the founder of the Social Democratic and Labour Party’s connections to Martin Luther King Jr. and his multiple visits to Atlanta over the years.
“Just as his great film showcases and substantiates the many ways in which Dr. King’s peace legacy inspired John Hume is his peace-work, so too can your organization and annual event, the Atlanta St. Patrick’s Day Parade, propel widespread knowledge of that vital, transformative and historical link,” Mr. Naugle wrote in his November petition to the committee.
Mr. Naugle is now encouraging others to urge others to lend their voice to the campaign urging Dave Fitzgerald, who heads up the local St. Patrick’s Day parade committee, to approach Mr. Hume.
With Mr. Hume suffering from dementia and largely confined to his hometown of Derry, Mr. Naugle also suggested that the film maker behind the documentary, Maurice Fitzpatrick, serve as Mr. Hume’s proxy at the parade.
Honoring the city’s civil rights heritage at the parade isn’t without precedent: Last year’s grand marshal was Georgia congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis.
Other notable grand marshals from the past include former Prime Minister Enda Kenny and then-sports and tourism minister Leo Varadkar, who is now serving as prime minister, or taoiseach.
The parade has yet to name a grand marshal. It’s unclear whether Mr. Hume is among the multiple nominees being considered, according to a spokesperson. The selectee will be announced in the run-up to the event.
Learn more about the parade here.
Find out more about Atlanta: City of Peace here.