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How Martin Luther King inspired a Northern Ireland uprising

5 7 1249
15.01.2018

Martin Luther King’s legacy is intact as the greatest African American leader of all time, an orator to rival Lincoln and a reputation that matches Gandhi around the globe.

His impact was worldwide. It was certainly huge in Ireland. Indeed, we would never have seen the incredible changes in Northern Ireland and the push for equality were it not for the King legacy.

In his official Nobel Prize interview before accepting the award, John Hume stated, “Martin Luther King was very much our inspiration” when they had to address discrimination and prejudice in Northern Ireland.

Speaking in Atlanta, in King’s church, when accepting a peace award in 1999, Hume said, "We believed in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King. We believed in inclusivity, not exclusivity. We believed that true unity among all Irish people was unity of the heart, not unity of the soil."

King's widow, Coretta, praised Hume when she presented him with the 1999 Martin Luther King Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize.

"Like Dr. King, he has demonstrated the power of one person that provided a spark of leadership that provided a way out of no way," she said.

Read more: Martin Luther King’s legacy for the undocumented immigrant children

The comparisons were evident. As John Conroy remarked in "Belfast Diary:" “Northern Catholics ... had a position in society equivalent to blacks in the United States at that time."

Brian Dooley, author of "The Black and Green," an excellent account of the Irish/Black interaction, was in no doubt about King’s importance in the civil rights struggle in Northern Ireland; He was "an enormously powerful and symbolic figure ... for civil rights struggles in Northern Ireland... . "

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