By David Young, Rebecca Black and Michelle Devane, PA
Political leaders past and present have paid tribute to David Trimble’s contribution to peace in Northern Ireland following his death.
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.
Mr 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.
A planned recall sitting of the troubled Assembly on Tuesday, which would have expected to witness heated exchanges over the current deadlock, has been postponed as a mark of respect.
On Monday evening, British prime minister Boris Johnson said Mr 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 Micheál 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.
President Michael D Higgins praised Mr Trimble’s “life of public service”.
Former British and Irish prime ministers Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern, both of whom were involved in the intensive Good Friday negotiations, also paid tribute.
“David Trimble was a man of courage & vision. He chose to grasp the opportunity for peace when it presented itself & sought to end the decades of violence that blighted his beloved Northern Ireland.” – UUP Leader Doug Beattie MC MLA
— Ulster Unionist (@uuponline) July 25, 2022
Mr Blair said his contribution was “immense, unforgettable and frankly irreplaceable” while Mr Ahern described him as a “courageous” leader.
Ex-Sinn Féin 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.
Current UUP leader Doug Beattie hailed the former first minister as “a man of courage and vision”.
“He chose to grasp the opportunity for peace when it presented itself and sought to end the decades of violence that blighted his beloved Northern Ireland,” he said.
Announcing the postponement of the recalled sitting on Monday evening, outgoing Stormont speaker Alex Maskey said he would be making arrangements to allow MLAs to formally offer their condolences and pay tributes.
“I will announce further details when arrangements have been confirmed,” he added.