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The University of Ulster was today celebrating Professor John Hume's victory in a public vote on Ireland's greatest historical figure.

The Nobel laureate was declared the winner of the competition on RTE's Late Late Show, beating a final shortlist comprising of Irish rebel leader turned peace broker Michael Collins, U2 lead singer Bono, Easter Rising rebel and socialist James Connolly and former Irish President Mary Robinson.

Professor Hume was honoured for his dogged pursuit of peace and his commitment to non violence during Northern Ireland's Troubles and for his role in persuading the IRA to abandon violence and concentrate on Sinn Fein pursuing its goals by exclusively peaceful and democratic means.

The former SDLP MP and MEP, whose wife Pat received an honorary doctorate earlier this year from the University of Ulster, was in 2003 appointed to the Tip O'Neill Chair in Peace Studies on the University of Ulster's Magee campus.

He drew a number of internationally-renowned statesmen and women to the campus to deliver lectures including US President Bill Clinton, Senators Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, European Commission president Romano Prodi, Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Irish President Mary McAleese.

Last month, President Clinton returned to Magee and paid an affectionate tribute to Professor Hume and his wife, Pat.

In October 2009, University of Ulster Vice-Chancellor Professor Richard Barnett announced that John Hume would become an Honorary Professor in Peace Studies following the conclusion of the Tip O'Neill lecture series.

Magee Acting Provost Professor Deirdre Heenan said staff at the University were thrilled by Professor Hume's win in a public vote on both sides of the Irish border.

"The University is delighted for John, Pat and their family to see John's colossal contribution to peace being recognised in a vote involving members of the public in Northern Ireland and the Republic," Professor Heenan said.

"Journalist Miriam O'Callaghan made a compelling case in her hour-long RTE documentary for John to be declared Ireland's greatest, and it is no mean feat when you consider not only who was on the final shortlist, but the Irish female and male icons who failed to make the final five.

"It is heartening to know John's pivotal role in delivering peace and his personal sacrifice has not been forgotten.

"Professor Hume has been a real asset to the University and Magee especially since he became an Honorary Professor. I know everyone in the University and in the city is delighted to see him being honoured in this way."