Tuesday, July 26, 2022

By Jonathan McCambridge, David Young and Rebecca Black, PA

Books of condolence have been opened in memory of David Trimble as political leaders, both locally and internationally, hailed his contribution to securing peace in Northern Ireland.

The 77-year-old peer and ex-leader of the Ulster Unionist Party was one of the principal architects of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement that ended decades of conflict in the region.

Lord Trimble, who jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize along with late SDLP leader John Hume, died on Monday following an illness.

His death comes amid another political crisis at Stormont, with the DUP blocking the creation of a powersharing administration in protest at Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol.

The Northern Ireland Assembly will hold a special sitting next Tuesday to pay tribute to Lord Trimble.

David Trimble death
Lord Mayor of Belfast Tina Black opens a book of condolence at Belfast City Hall for former Northern Ireland First Minister and leader of the Ulster Unionist Party Lord David Trimble (Liam McBurney/PA)

His funeral will take place in Lisburn on Monday with the service to be held at Harmony Hill Presbyterian Church at 12.30pm.

During a poignant event at Stormont on Tuesday, current UUP leader Doug Beattie laid a bouquet of flowers underneath a portrait of Lord Trimble, before pausing for a moment of silent reflection.

Mr Beattie then said that Lord Trimble had maintained his passion for politics and for achieving reconciliation in Northern Ireland right up until his death.

He said: “I would never be able to fill the shoes of David Trimble but I’m extremely proud to be the Ulster Unionist Party leader and to be able to look back at the passing of David and say that he was once the leader of this great party.

“In the conversations that I had with him, even as frail as he’d become in the last number of months, there was a fire in his eyes for politics, there was a fire in his eyes for peace in Northern Ireland and there was a fire in his eyes to try and heal the divisions which blighted this part of the United Kingdom.

“He was a great unionist, he was a great politician. Many of those from the party that I have spoken to are genuinely feeling his loss today and will need to come to terms with it over the next number of days.”

Books of condolence were opened in Belfast and Derry by the mayors of the two cities.

Belfast Lord Mayor Tina Black said people in Northern Ireland today benefited from the leadership shown by Lord Trimble and others.

David Trimble death
Sinn Fein’s vice president Michelle O’Neill spoke about the death of David Trimble during a visit to Cookstown (Sinn Fein/PA)

Sinn Féin’s Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill said Lord Trimble should serve as an inspiration and example to the current generation of politicians at Stormont.

“I think that none of us should underestimate what was achieved back in 1998 and David Trimble had the courage to step forward in his leadership role, to bring people with him, to work with others.

“I think that should be a message to us all even today, 24 years later. It takes courage. It takes leadership. It takes parties working together actually to achieve things and we need that same determination today as we had back in 1998.”

Former US President Bill Clinton said people today are leading better lives because of the sacrifices made by David Trimble.

In a statement Mr Clinton said: “Hillary and I are deeply saddened by the passing of Lord David Trimble, a leader of courage, vision and principle whose lifetime of service helped bring peace to Northern Ireland.

“Time after time during the negotiations that led to the Good Friday Agreement, he made the hard choices over the politically expedient ones because he believed future generations deserved to grow up free from violence and hatred.

“His faith in the democratic process allowed him to stand up to strong opposition in his own community, persuade them of the merits of compromise, and share power with his former adversaries.

“His legacy will endure in all who are living better lives because of him today.

“Hillary and I send our thoughts and prayers to his wife, Daphne, his entire family, and all the people who loved him and were inspired by his service.”

Washington Clinton Trimble
Former US President Bill Clinton jokes with Seamus Mallon and David Trimble when they visited the White House (Paul Faith/PA)

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown tweeted that Lord Trimble had been an “architect of peace in Northern Ireland”.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson described Lord Trimble as a “titan of unionism”.

Sir Jeffrey quit the Ulster Unionist Party in 2003 and defected to the DUP after he disagreed with his then party leader over the Good Friday Agreement and IRA decommissioning.

But he told the BBC Good Morning Ulster programme: “There is no doubt that David was a titan of unionism.

“He was someone who believed passionately in the union and I have to say that despite our differences in the latter years when I was in the Ulster Unionist Party, he was someone I got on very well with.”

On Monday evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Lord Trimble’s achievements would never be forgotten.

“He was a giant of British and international politics and will be long remembered for his intellect, personal bravery and fierce determination to change politics for the better,” he said.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin credited his “central contribution” in efforts to secure peace and reconciliation on the island of Ireland.

“All of us in politics at the time witnessed his crucial and courageous role in the negotiations leading to the Good Friday Agreement and his leadership in building support in his party and his community for the Agreement,” he said.

Irish President Michael D Higgins praised Lord Trimble’s “life of public service”.

Former UK and Irish prime ministers, Sir Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern, both of whom were involved in the intensive Good Friday negotiations, also paid tribute.

Sir Tony said his contribution was “immense, unforgettable and frankly irreplaceable” while Mr Ahern described him as a “courageous” leader.

Ex-Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, a once bitter political adversary of the unionist leader, thanked him for helping to get the Good Friday Agreement over the line in 1998.

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