A former Cumbrian politician has paid tribute to a Nobel-prize winner after his death.

John Hume, a prominent Irish politician and Nobel Peace Prize winner died at the age of 83.

He played a key role in the peace talks which led to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

Sir Tony Cunningham, former Workington MP, knew Mr Hume very well as the two had offices next to each other when serving as MEPs in Brussels.

Sir Tony said: “He saw peace being the ultimate goal and he brought the same passion he had for Northern Ireland to the European discussions.

“I saw him on numerous occasions sitting with Ian Paisley; you wouldn’t have thought of seeing that, they were at absolute opposites of the political spectrum.

“So many times I saw them sat together in the interest of Northern Ireland, one was a catholic, one a protestant, one a nationalist the other a unionist. If it meant creating peace in Northern Ireland, John Hume was willing to talk to virtually anybody.”

Sir Tony added that Mr Hume was diagnosed with dementia later in life.

He recalled an event in New York, when Sir Tony was invited to a dinner where Mr Hume would give a speech.

He said: “I had the office next door to him in Brussels, we were in and out of each other’s offices all the time and in New York, John didn’t recognise me at all. Yet, he gave a speech which was word-perfect – the right intonation, the timing of the jokes.

“They put him in front of an audience of congressmen and other politicians and he delivered.

“Dementia is an awful disease which takes away memories.

“He was a great man: there would have been no peace agreement in Northern Ireland without him.

“When you think of how many lives were saved by his work, he will go down in history as one of the greatest Irishmen.”