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Politicians arrive for funeral of peace process architect Lord David Trimble

Political leaders and other dignitaries have joined family and friends of peace process architect David Trimble at his funeral service, which told how his life’s work gave a generation safety and security.

The 77-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner died last week following an illness.

The peer and former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party played a key role in forging the 1998 Good Friday/Belfast Agreement that ended decades of conflict in Northern Ireland.

Months after the deal was signed, Lord Trimble, from Co Down, was jointly awarded the Nobel prize with late SDLP leader John Hume in recognition of their efforts to stop the bloodshed and establish a powersharing system of devolved governance in the region.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Taoiseach Micheal Martin arrived at Harmony Hill Presbyterian Church earlier today before the ceremony started.

They were joined by the president of Ireland Michael D Higgins and DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson.

Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill, former first minister Paul Givan and Northern Ireland Secretary Shailesh Vara have also taken their places in the church. Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern and PSNI chief constable Simon Byrne were also there.

Lord Trimble’s widow, Lady Daphne, took her place in the front row as the coffin was carried into the church by their sons and daughters.

Rev Dr Charles McMullen said during a tribute at the service: ‘Alongside others, he rose to seemingly impossible challenges with considerable strength of character, intellectual acumen, and complete integrity.

‘The reward for all of us has been a radically changed landscape here in Northern Ireland, which has saved many lives and allowed a generation to grow up in relative peace.

‘As so many have said over these past few days, history will be exceedingly kind to David even if life brought many unrelenting pressures and demands.’

Former Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble has died at age 77, the party has revealed. Pictured with Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern during an unveiling of his portrait by Colin Davidson at Queen’s Management School, Riddel Hall, in Belfast in June this year

Lady Daphne Trimble (third left) and members of family, arrives for the funeral of former Northern Ireland first minister and UUP leader David Trimble

Lady Daphne Trimble (third left) and members of family, arrives for the funeral of former Northern Ireland first minister and UUP leader David Trimble

Irish president Michael D Higgins (right), arrives for the funeral to remember the life and achievements of Lord Trimble

Irish president Michael D Higgins (right), arrives for the funeral to remember the life and achievements of Lord Trimble

UUP Jill Macauley and Taoiseach Micheal Martin were both pictured arriving to pay their respects to the respected politician

UUP Jill Macauley and Taoiseach Micheal Martin were both pictured arriving to pay their respects to the respected politician

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie attend the funeral of Northern Ireland's former First Minister David Trimble

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie attend the funeral of Northern Ireland’s former First Minister David Trimble

UUP's Danny Kennedy, arrives for the funeral of former Northern Ireland first minister and UUP leader David Trimble today

UUP’s Danny Kennedy, arrives for the funeral of former Northern Ireland first minister and UUP leader David Trimble today 

Alasdair McDonnell attends the funeral of Northern Ireland's former First Minister David Trimble, one of the key peace brokers of the Good Friday Agreement

Alasdair McDonnell attends the funeral of Northern Ireland’s former First Minister David Trimble, one of the key peace brokers of the Good Friday Agreement

Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly Alex Maskey, former Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, and Barbara De Brun, arrives for the funeral

Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly Alex Maskey, former Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, and Barbara De Brun, arrives for the funeral

Former Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson (left), and UUP leader Doug Beattie, arrives for the funeral

Former Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson (left), and UUP leader Doug Beattie, arrives for the funeral

Minister Rev Fiona Forbes had welcomed mourners to the service as members of the public gathered outside to pay their respects.

Rev Fiona Forbes told the funeral service: ‘On behalf of the Trimble family circle and Harmony Hill Presbyterian Church I welcome you to this service of thanksgiving for the life of William David Trimble.

‘The array of those who have gathered today to pay their respects bears witness not only to David’s impact on the political landscape of which he was so much a part, but also to the imprints he left upon the same, and to the legacy he left all of us.

‘Of course, we come to remember an academic, a party leader, a peacemaker, a Nobel laureate, the first to serve in the role of first minister in the new Northern Ireland Executive established as part of the Good Friday Agreement.

‘But we also come to remember a husband, father, and grandfather, a brother, brother-in-law and uncle, a colleague, a committed member of this church family, and a friend.’

Lord Trimble’s eldest son Richard thanked the public for their sympathies and kind words following the death of his father.

He told the funeral service in Lisburn: ‘On behalf of the family we would like to say a massive thank you to everyone who’s expressed their sympathies and their kind words.’

Mr Trimble and his sister Victoria then delivered Bible readings.

Trimble with his wife Daphne in Lisburn Co Antrim in 2004

Trimble with his wife Daphne in Lisburn Co Antrim in 2004

Trimble and John Hume (right), former leader of the Catholic Social Democratic and Labour Party, jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998 for their roles in helping end more than 30 years of bloodshed

Trimble and John Hume (right), former leader of the Catholic Social Democratic and Labour Party, jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998 for their roles in helping end more than 30 years of bloodshed

People attend the funeral of Northern Ireland's former First Minister David Trimble, one of the key peace brokers of the Good Friday Agreement

People attend the funeral of Northern Ireland’s former First Minister David Trimble, one of the key peace brokers of the Good Friday Agreement

Former UUP MEP Jim Nicholson (right), arrives for the funeral of former Northern Ireland first minister and UUP leader David Trimble, who died last week aged 77

Former UUP MEP Jim Nicholson (right), arrives for the funeral of former Northern Ireland first minister and UUP leader David Trimble, who died last week aged 77

People have gathered outside the church to pay their respects as the sevice got underway inside the place of worship

People have gathered outside the church to pay their respects as the sevice got underway inside the place of worship

Dr McMullen added: ‘He was a committed family man and as I have sat with Daphne, his daughters Victoria and Sarah, sons Richard and Nicholas over these past few days I have been deeply touched and moved by so many stories, all of which underlined how dearly loved he was by them.

‘They gave him to us and we want to take this opportunity to express our deepest appreciation to them.’

Rev Charles McMullen told the funeral service how the Omagh bombing doubled the determination of Lord Trimble to achieve peace in Northern Ireland.

He said: ‘As first minister, David had to cut short a family holiday in order to get home to visit Omagh in the aftermath of that terrible bombing which killed so many, an experience that left him utterly devastated but doubled his determination to keep building bridges and working for peace.

‘I can remember bumping into him days after the conclusion of the Good Friday Agreement and hearing how afterwards on his way home he had gone to a hole in the wall but could not remember his pin number.

Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service Jayne Brady, arrives for the funeral earlier today

Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service Jayne Brady, arrives for the funeral earlier today

Northern Irish MLA Mike Nesbitt attends the funeral of Northern Ireland's former First Minister David Trimble

Northern Irish MLA Mike Nesbitt attends the funeral of Northern Ireland’s former First Minister David Trimble

Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie attends the funeral of Northern Ireland's former First Minister David Trimble

Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie attends the funeral of Northern Ireland’s former First Minister David Trimble

Former Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson, arrives for the funeral of former Northern Ireland first minister and UUP leader David Trimble, who died last week aged 77

Former Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson, arrives for the funeral of former Northern Ireland first minister and UUP leader David Trimble, who died last week aged 77

‘That was an indication of being under almost unbearable stress, but then he always had the courage of his convictions and was prepared to pay the cost.’

On Tuesday, the Stormont Assembly will reconvene for a special sitting to pay tribute to Lord Trimble.

The institutions are currently on ice, with the DUP blocking the creation of a powersharing administration in protest at Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol.

Last week books of condolence for the veteran politician were opened in several cities and towns across Northern Ireland.

Paying tribute, the Prime Minister described Lord Trimble as a ‘giant of British and international politics’ while Mr Martin credited his ‘central contribution’ in efforts to achieve reconciliation on the island of Ireland.

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

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, thanked him for helping to get the Good Friday Agreement over the line.

Lord Trimble is survived by his wife Lady Daphne Trimble and the couple’s four children.

‘A courageous man who has earned his place in history’: Tributes pour in for Lord David Trimble after Nobel Peace Prize-winning former NI First Minister and architect of the Good Friday Agreement died aged 77

Politicians who played key roles at various junctures in Northern Ireland’s arduous peace process paid tribute to David Trimble’s efforts to end the bloodshed – following his death at age 77 following a short illness. 

Lord Trimble, a key architect of the landmark 1998 peace deal, won the Nobel peace prize along with pro-Irish leader John Hume that year after the pair sealed the historic agreement.

‘It is with great sadness that the family of Lord Trimble announce that he passed away peacefully earlier today following a short illness,’ his Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) said in a statement.

No further details were given about the death of a politician who, despite his staunch pro-UK convictions, worked with Irish nationalists to end the three decades of bloodshed known as the ‘Troubles’.

Former prime minister Sir Tony Blair said his contribution was ‘immense, unforgettable and frankly irreplaceable’.

Sir Tony’s predecessor Sir John Major praised Trimble’s ‘critical’ role in peace building, while ex-Irish premier Bertie Ahern described him as a ‘courageous’ leader.

Ex-Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams thanked him for helping to get the Good Friday Agreement over the line in 1998.

Former minister Lord Mandelson said Lord Trimble went through ‘pain and strife’ implementing the Good Friday Agreement, yet ‘didn’t buckle’.

In a statement, Peter Mandelson said: ‘David Trimble not only took on the Herculean task of negotiating the Good Friday Agreement on behalf of unionists but went through all the pain and strife of implementing it.

‘Throughout, he faced unending onslaught from people in his own community – I know because we faced many of these audiences together – and ultimately he didn’t buckle. He was a courageous man who has earned his place in history.’

Northern Ireland First Minister David Trimble (L), US President Bill Clinton (C), Deputy First minister Seamus Mallon (C) and British Prime Minister Tony Blair (R) stand on the steps of Stormont parliamentary buildings in Northern Ireland on December 13, 2000

Northern Ireland First Minister David Trimble (L), US President Bill Clinton (C), Deputy First minister Seamus Mallon (C) and British Prime Minister Tony Blair (R) stand on the steps of Stormont parliamentary buildings in Northern Ireland on December 13, 2000

Trimble and John Hume, former leader of the Catholic Social Democratic and Labour Party, jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998 for their roles in helping end more than 30 years of bloodshed. 

The Co Down man distinguished himself in an academic career in the law faculty at the Queen’s University Belfast before moving into politics.

He initially became involved in the unionist offshoot organisation Vanguard in the early 1970s and while he was best known for his involvement with the Belfast Agreement, in his younger days he had opposed an earlier attempt, the Sunningdale Agreement.

He went on to join the then dominant Ulster Unionist Party in 1978.

It was at the university in 1983 that he heard the IRA’s gunshots which killed his fellow law professor and UUP colleague Edgar Graham and later identified the body.

He left academia for politics full time when he was elected as MP for Upper Bann following a by-election in 1990 after the death of the incumbent Harold McCusker.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday lauded former Northern Irish leader David Trimble following the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s death at 77.

Trimble 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’, Johnson tweeted.

Former prime minister Sir Tony Blair described David Trimble’s contribution as ‘immense, unforgettable and frankly irreplaceable’ and said he will be mourned by friends and foes alike.

In a statement, Sir Tony said: ‘David Trimble, in his support of the peace process, showed politics at its very best. When some within his own ranks were opposed to the Belfast/Good Friday agreement, he supported it.

‘When we needed his willingness to go the extra mile for peace, he travelled that mile. When there was the prospect of collapse of the process without strong leadership, he provided that leadership.

‘His contribution to Northern Ireland and to the United Kingdom was immense, unforgettable and frankly irreplaceable.

‘Whatever disagreements we had – and there were quite a few – I never had anything other than profound respect for David as a person and as a Leader.

Irish rock band U2's lead singer Bono (C) holds up the arms of Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble (L) and SDLP leader John Hume (R) on stage during a concert given by U2 and Ash at the Waterfront concert hall to promote the yes vote for Friday's peace referendum

Irish rock band U2’s lead singer Bono (C) holds up the arms of Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble (L) and SDLP leader John Hume (R) on stage during a concert given by U2 and Ash at the Waterfront concert hall to promote the yes vote for Friday’s peace referendum

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday lauded former Northern Irish leader David Trimble following the Nobel Peace Prize winner's death at 77

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday lauded former Northern Irish leader David Trimble following the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s death at 77

Former Blair spokesperson and journalist Alistair Campbell said: 'Very sad to hear that David Trimble has died'

Former Blair spokesperson and journalist Alistair Campbell said: ‘Very sad to hear that David Trimble has died’

‘My deepest condolences to Daphne and his family.

‘We have lost today someone who will be mourned by friends and foes alike.’

Former Blair spokesperson and journalist Alistair Campbell said: ‘Very sad to hear that David Trimble has died. The peace process in Northern Ireland, and the Good Friday Agreement in particular, would not have happened without him.’

DUP Leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said he was ‘deeply saddened’ to learn of David Trimble’s passing and his thoughts were with Daphne and their children.

He said Mr Trimble made a huge contribution to Northern Ireland, and to political life in the United Kingdom.

In a statement he said: ‘Throughout some of the most difficult years of the Troubles David was a committed and passionate advocate for the Union, at a time when doing so placed a considerable threat to his safety.

‘Whilst our political paths parted within the Ulster Unionist Party, there can be no doubting his bravery and determination in leadership at that time. He was a committed and passionate unionist who always wanted the best for Northern Ireland.

‘Right until recent days David continued to use his political skill and intellect, most recently in support of the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union and in opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

‘As a Nobel laureate, his words carried significant weight and he helped raise awareness of the threat the protocol posed to Northern Ireland, particularly amongst the wider UK audience. He leaves a huge and lasting legacy to Northern Ireland. He can undoubtedly be said to have shaped history in our country.’

Former Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has expressed his ‘deep regret’ at David Trimble’s passing and extended his ‘sincere condolences’ to his widow Daphne, their children, and his former UUP colleagues.

In a statement Mr Adams said: ‘David faced huge challenges when he led the Ulster Unionist Party in the Good Friday Agreement negotiations and persuaded his party to sign on for it. It is to his credit that he supported that Agreement. I thank him for that.

‘In the years immediately following the Agreement I met David many times. Our conversations were not always easy but we made progress. We used to meet quite often on our own and I got to know him quite well. While we held fundamentally different political opinions on the way forward nonetheless I believe he was committed to making the peace process work.

Trimble arrives with his wife Daphne at his polling station in Norther Ireland on June 25, 1998

Trimble arrives with his wife Daphne at his polling station in Norther Ireland on June 25, 1998

‘David’s contribution to the Good Friday Agreement and to the quarter century of relative peace that followed cannot be underestimated. I want to extend my sincerest condolences to Daphne Trimble, their daughters Victoria and Sarah, their sons Richard and Nicholas and to the entire family circle. Ar dheis De go raibh a anam dilis’.  

Alliance Leader Naomi Long MLA has said she is saddened by David Trimble’s death, saying her thoughts were with his friends and family.

Mrs Long said: ‘Lord Trimble’s greatest legacy to his political career is the Good Friday Agreement and the risks he took to both help achieve it, and ensuring the resulting Assembly remained during its unsteady early days. It was at times an unenviable role.

‘His contribution to the peace process and the ending of violence in our society helped secure his place in history. My condolences go to Lord Trimble’s family.’

Ireland’s deputy premier Leo Varadkar said Lord Trimble took ‘enormous personal and political risks for peace’.

In a post on Twitter, Mr Varadkar said: ‘David Trimble took enormous personal and political risks for peace.

‘He put the future of Northern Ireland before his party’s interests and sought to make Northern Ireland a warmer house for all who lived there.’

A planned recalled sitting of the Stormont Assembly on Tuesday has been postponed as a mark of respect for Lord Trimble.

The legislature had been due to sit in another attempt to elect a new speaker amid the current powersharing impasse in the region.

Outgoing speaker Alex Maskey said: ‘I was very sorry to hear of the death of Lord Trimble. David and I worked together through many challenging times, the high point being the Good Friday Agreement. We were colleagues in the first Assembly in 1998 in what was a very different Assembly chamber from today. He undoubtedly took difficult decisions in difficult circumstances throughout this period and played a huge part in the peace process. However, I am particularly mindful of his wife Daphne and his family who are mourning the loss of a husband and father.

In a post on Twitter, Mr Varadkar said: 'David Trimble took enormous personal and political risks for peace'

In a post on Twitter, Mr Varadkar said: ‘David Trimble took enormous personal and political risks for peace’

‘I have engaged with party whips this evening and parties are all agreed that it would be inappropriate to hold the scheduled recall of the Assembly tomorrow. I intend to defer tomorrow’s sitting of the Assembly to a later date. I will also be making provision for Assembly Members to formally offer their condolences and pay tribute to Lord Trimble as a former first minister; I will announce further details when arrangements have been confirmed.’

Lord Trimble rose to prominence partly due to the Drumcree dispute as nationalist residents opposed the procession of an orange parade along the Garvaghy Road.

He led the parade along the road in 1995, famously joining hands with Democratic Unionist leader Ian Paisley.

A few months later, Lord Trimble unexpectedly won the leadership of the Ulster Unionist Party over the favourite Lord Kilclooney, starting his often turbulent time at the helm of the party.

He marked a number of firsts as Ulster Unionist leader, including becoming the party’s first leader in 30 years to meet with the Irish premier in Dublin and in 1997 he became the first unionist leader since partition to negotiate with Sinn Fein.

The peace talks, which started formally in 1998 under the chairmanship of former US senator George Mitchell, saw many nights of intensive negotiation pressed on by then prime minister Tony Blair, taoiseach Bertie Ahern and then US president Bill Clinton.

The process faltered several times but perhaps most notably when then Ulster Unionist Jeffrey Donaldson walked out of the talks.

Trimble (left) and American politician US President Bill Clinton (right) talk together at the White House, Washington DC, on October 7, 1993

Trimble (left) and American politician US President Bill Clinton (right) talk together at the White House, Washington DC, on October 7, 1993

However on April 10, 1998, the agreement was signed, and endorsed following a referendum held the following month.

Lord Trimble become the first first minister of Northern Ireland to be elected on July 1, 1998, alongside SDLP deputy leader Seamus Mallon as deputy First Minister.

But the path of devolved government was far from smooth for the two men, with the issue of the paramilitary groups decommissioning overshadowing Stormont.

Lord Trimble also struggled with internal divisions within his party which saw Mr Donaldson, along with fellow future DUP leader Arlene Foster and Norah Beare, resigning in December 2003.

Lord Trimble lost his Westminster seat in Upper Bann at the 2005 election to DUP candidate David Simpson.

He resigned as leader of the party whose once dominant Westminster representation had been reduced to just one seat.

He was made a life peer the following year and later took up his seat in the House of Lords as a member of the Conservative Party to have, he said, great influence on UK politics.

While generally socially conservative in outlook, Lord Trimble admitted in July 2019 that he had changed his position on equal marriage after his daughter Victoria married her girlfriend in 2017.

Trimble at the Conservative Party Conference in 1999

Trimble at the Conservative Party Conference in 1999

Hume (L) gives the thumbs up as fellow Laureat David Trimble waves as they leave the Nobel Institute in Oslo on December 9, 1998

Hume (L) gives the thumbs up as fellow Laureat David Trimble waves as they leave the Nobel Institute in Oslo on December 9, 1998

Lord Trimble’s final public appearance came at the end of June at the unveiling of a portrait of him by artist Colin Davidson at the Queen’s University.

He then reflected on the approach of the 25th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement, and pointed out it has survived despite the objections.

‘The Good Friday Agreement is something which everybody in Northern Ireland has been able to agree with, it doesn’t mean they agree with everything, there are aspects which some people thought were a mistake, but the basic thing is that this was agreed, he said.

‘That is there. People are actually not throwing the agreement to pieces, their complaints are still based on the existence of the agreement.

‘They are not saying ‘throw it out’, so that’s the thing to bear in mind.’

He was also sharply critical of the UK government over Brexit trade arrangements.

Lord Trimble is survived by his wife Daphne and sons and daughters, Richard, Victoria, Nicholas and Sarah.

The Taoiseach said David Trimble had played a ‘crucial and courageous role’ in the Good Friday Agreement negotiations.

In a statement Micheal Martin said: ‘I wish to express my deepest condolences to the family, colleagues and friends of David Trimble.

Trimble holds a press conference at an event to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement at Queens university on April 10, 2018 in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Trimble holds a press conference at an event to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement at Queens university on April 10, 2018 in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said he was 'deeply saddened' by the passing of Trimble

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said he was ‘deeply saddened’ by the passing of Trimble

‘He played a key role as leader of the UUP, and his was a long and distinguished career in Unionist politics and in the politics of Northern 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.

‘Fittingly, his contribution was recognised internationally and most notably by the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to himself and John Hume ‘for their joint efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Northern Ireland’.

‘As the first first minister of Northern Ireland he began the arduous work of bedding down the executive and delivering for the people of Northern Ireland. In his speech accepting the Nobel Prize, Trimble spoke about the ‘politicians of the possible’, a phrase which I think sums up the David Trimble we all knew, and it speaks to his achievements over many decades, often in challenging circumstances.

‘The work of reconciliation begun in the Good Friday Agreement continues, and as new generations pick up the mantle of this work, it is fitting that we pay tribute to Lord Trimble for his central contribution in setting us on the path to peace and reconciliation.’

Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill tweeted: ‘It is with genuine regret that I have learned of the passing of former first minister, David Trimble.

‘I wish to offer my sincere condolences to his wife Daphne, their four children and the wider family circle who will feel his loss deeply.

‘His very significant contribution to the peace process and his courage in helping achieve the Good Friday Agreement leaves a legacy a quarter century on for which he and his family should be rightly proud.’

UUP leader Doug Beattie paid tribute to Lord Trimble saying his death would cause ‘deep sadness’ throughout Northern Ireland and much further afield.

Queen Elizabeth II greets Trimble at Buckingham Palace, London, during a special reception paying tribute to the contribution of more than 400 pioneers in British life

Queen Elizabeth II greets Trimble at Buckingham Palace, London, during a special reception paying tribute to the contribution of more than 400 pioneers in British life

Trimble (right) and Seamus Mallon at Dublin City University where they received honorary degrees in recognition of their key contribution to the Northern Ireland peace process

Trimble (right) and Seamus Mallon at Dublin City University where they received honorary degrees in recognition of their key contribution to the Northern Ireland peace process

Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill tweeted: 'It is with genuine regret that I have learned of the passing of former first minister, David Trimble'

Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill tweeted: ‘It is with genuine regret that I have learned of the passing of former first minister, David Trimble’

Mr Beattie said: ‘David Trimble was 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 will forever be associated with the leadership he demonstrated in the negotiations that led up to the 1998 Belfast Agreement.

‘The bravery and courage he demonstrated whilst battling his recent illness was typical of the qualities he showed in his political career, at Stormont and at Westminster.

‘He will be remembered as a First Minister, as a peer of the realm and as a Nobel Prize winner. He will also be remembered as a great Unionist.

‘On behalf of the Ulster Unionist Party, and with a very heavy heart, I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to his wife Lady Trimble and his children, Richard, Victoria, Sarah and Nicholas.’

DUP Leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said he was ‘deeply saddened’ to learn of David Trimble’s passing and his thoughts were with Daphne and their children.

He said Mr Trimble made a huge contribution to Northern Ireland, and to political life in the United Kingdom.

(L-R) Jonathan Powell, Monica McWilliams, Lord John Alderdice, Seamus Mallon, Lord David Trimble, Bertie Ahern, Sir Reg Empey, Senator George J. Mitchell, Paul Murphy and Gerry Adams pose for a photo on the 20th Anniversary of the signing of The Good Friday Agreement on April 10, 2018 in Belfast

(L-R) Jonathan Powell, Monica McWilliams, Lord John Alderdice, Seamus Mallon, Lord David Trimble, Bertie Ahern, Sir Reg Empey, Senator George J. Mitchell, Paul Murphy and Gerry Adams pose for a photo on the 20th Anniversary of the signing of The Good Friday Agreement on April 10, 2018 in Belfast

In a statement he said: ‘Throughout some of the most difficult years of the Troubles David was a committed and passionate advocate for the Union, at a time when doing so placed a considerable threat to his safety.

‘Whilst our political paths parted within the Ulster Unionist Party, there can be no doubting his bravery and determination in leadership at that time. He was a committed and passionate unionist who always wanted the best for Northern Ireland.

‘Right until recent days David continued to use his political skill and intellect, most recently in support of the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union and in opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

‘As a Nobel laureate, his words carried significant weight and he helped raise awareness of the threat the protocol posed to Northern Ireland, particularly amongst the wider UK audience. He leaves a huge and lasting legacy to Northern Ireland. He can undoubtedly be said to have shaped history in our country.’

Brandon Lewis, who resigned as Northern Ireland secretary earlier this month, tweeted: ‘Incredibly sad news that David Trimble has died. A brilliant statesman and dedicated public servant, his legacy as an architect of the Good Friday Agreement will live on forever. 

‘The people of the UK owe him an immense debt of gratitude for all he achieved for our Union.’

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer tweeted: ‘Very sad news. David Trimble was a towering figure of Northern Ireland and British politics as one of the key authors of the Good Friday Agreement, the first First Minister and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. My thoughts are with Lady Trimble and their family.’

Tributes to David Trimble came flooding in across social media following his death from the likes of Tory MP Tom Tugenhat, Belfast journalist Suzanne Breen and MLA Eoin Tennyson

Tributes to David Trimble came flooding in across social media following his death from the likes of Tory MP Tom Tugenhat, Belfast journalist Suzanne Breen and MLA Eoin Tennyson

From hardliner to First Minister: How David Trimble manned the barricades at the Orange marches at Drumcree and became a statesman who helped achieve the historic Good Friday agreement of 1998

David Trimble was the Ulster Unionist hardliner, unafraid of flexing his political muscles, who became a moderate, although tough, leader of the party and then Northern Ireland’s first First Minister.

But his leadership of both the party and region ended at the general election of 2005, as the Ulster Unionists lost their dominant position to play second fiddle to Dr Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party.

The majority unionist population in Northern Ireland warmed to the Paisley ‘no surrender’ style of politics, and grew tired of Mr Trimble and his colleagues who appeared to be too moderate and too willing to compromise in the even in the post-Troubles era.

But just under a year after his general election defeat, Mr Trimble was awarded a peerage, as a working peer.

His was a remarkable transformation from a man who had manned the barricades at the menacing Orange marches at Drumcree into a statesman who played a huge part in achieving the historic Good Friday agreement of 1998.

It was his role in achieving this agreement that earned him the Nobel Peace Prize, with SDLP leader John Hume, later that year.

He went on to join the Conservative Party in 2007, which he said was to have a greater influence on UK politics. Although his wife Daphne remained involved with the Ulster Unionist Party, as did one of his sons, Nicholas, who is a councillor in Lisburn and Castlereagh.

Trimble canvasses for support in Portadown town centre on the eve of the Peace Process elections in the Province in 1996

Trimble canvasses for support in Portadown town centre on the eve of the Peace Process elections in the Province in 1996

David Trimble is pictured canvassing in Portadown, Northern Ireland, Monday May 29 2001

David Trimble is pictured canvassing in Portadown, Northern Ireland, Monday May 29 2001

While generally socially conservative in outlook, Lord Trimble admitted in July 2019 that he had changed his position on equal marriage after his daughter Victoria married her girlfriend in 2017.

He joined opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol, and in 2021, joined then-DUP leader Arlene Foster, UUP leader Steve Aiken and TUV leader Jim Allister in a legal challenge to the post-Brexit treaty on the grounds the protocol breaches the Act of Union and the Belfast Agreement.

Lord Trimble’s final public appearance came at the end of June 2022 at the unveiling of a portrait of him by artist Colin Davidson at Queen’s University.

He then reflected on the approach of the 25th anniversary of the agreement, and pointed out it has survived despite the objections.

He was also sharply critical of the UK government over Brexit and the protocol.

He will be remembered, above all else, for his ability during key junctures of the peace process to keep together in some sort of order the internal warring factions within UUP, ranging from ‘raging hawks to placid doves’ to quote a commentator at the time.

From that he led the Northern Ireland Assembly at which all parties – unionists, nationalists and republicans – once bitter enemies sat in the same debating chamber ostensibly working towards a peaceful future for a region bedevilled by violence and terrorism for more than 25 years.

1998: British Prime Minister Tony Blair (right), and Northern Ireland First Minister David Trimble on the platform during the Labour Party Conference at Blackpool

1998: British Prime Minister Tony Blair (right), and Northern Ireland First Minister David Trimble on the platform during the Labour Party Conference at Blackpool

David Trimble speaks to the media at Craigavon Arts Centre, Craigavon, Northern Ireland, Friday, Feb. 9, 2001

David Trimble speaks to the media at Craigavon Arts Centre, Craigavon, Northern Ireland, Friday, Feb. 9, 2001

Frequently he came under attack from uncompromising elements within his own ranks for allegedly surrendering loyalist principles in the gruelling run-up to the 1998 peace process.

But at the end of the day, he was praised by all parties and by the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, for the courage he had shown in the face of opposition from some unionist colleagues of his.

Even so, many people saw Lord Trimble as a main obstruction to the peace process getting under way. He rejected a compromise from the British and Irish Governments that would set up the Assembly first, and put decommissioning – the ponderous word for disarming the terrorists and paramilitaries – second. But it was a view that was to be vindicated later.

Lord Trimble was a softly-spoken, reserved individual, but a man who could drive a hard bargain – always an essential attribute of Northern Ireland political life.

Mo Mowlam, the Northern Ireland Secretary at the time, often said that none of the parties had got everything they wanted in the Good Friday agreement which was designed to herald a new dawn for the Province. But each, she insisted, had got something.

However, there was never any real rapprochement with the Democratic Unionists, whose leader, Dr Paisley had denounced him for sharing power with people he regarded as former terrorists with blood on their hands.

2001: Newly-elected First Minister David Trimble and Deputy First Minister Mark Durkan relax with a coffee in the First Minister's office

2001: Newly-elected First Minister David Trimble and Deputy First Minister Mark Durkan relax with a coffee in the First Minister’s office

It would be Dr Paisley who less than 10 years after the agreement was signed would enter a devolved coalition as first minister with former IRA commander Martin McGuinness as Sinn Fein deputy first minister.

In 1998, Lord Trimble secured just 51% of the unionist vote endorsing the agreement. Later, a vote on his own leadership was to be carried by only a marginally bigger margin. He was not a wildly popular figure, but that was a price the job entailed – and he was grimly aware of it.

It was Lord Trimble, incidentally, who probably had more influence than most in removing the ‘touchy-feely’ Ms Mowlam from the post of Northern Ireland Secretary.

He felt that she was too sympathetic to the republican cause, and when Mr Blair was informed of his views, he did not hesitate to pull her out.

It was something Mr Blair had wanted to do for some time – and here was a heaven-sent reason.

William David Trimble was born in Belfast on October 15, 1944, and educated at Bangor Grammar School and Queen’s University, Belfast.

He decided at first to pursue a career in the law, and as a barrister he became a lecturer in law at Queen’s University in 1968 and later, in 1977, senior lecturer as well as assistant dean of faculty.

But his passion for politics was beginning to override his interest in the law. He became a key figure in the United Ulster Unionist Council. Lord Trimble also became the Member for South Belfast in the Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention in 1975-76.

When the uncompromising Vanguard Party split over plans for voluntary coalition with the mainly nationalist SDLP, Lord Trimble backed the then leader William Craig and became deputy leader himself of the Vanguard Unionist Progressive Party.

But in 1978, he re-joined the Ulster Unionists and was associated for a time with the Ulster Clubs movement.

In the same year, he married Daphne Orr. They would have two boys and two girls.

He was chairman of the Lagan Valley Unionist Association and of the Ulster Society from 1985 to 1990.

Lord Trimble became MP at Westminster for Upper Bann at a by-election on May 17, 1990.

The high point of his career, thus far, was when he – in the face of predictions to the contrary – won the Ulster Unionist leadership in September 1995 after the resignation of the veteran Sir James Molyneaux.

This was barely a month after Lord Trimble had stood firmly in support of the Portadown Orangemen at Drumcree – a notorious flashpoint of the Ulster marching season.

Lord Trimble quickly dispelled fears, loudly voiced at the time, that the party had voted in some implacable hard-liner as its leader.

Although little known outside Ulster and Westminster itself at this time, he proved an impressive and fair-minded leader, the latter quality not always welcomed by some of the hardliners with whom he had to deal.

At the 1995 Drumcree stand-off of 1995, Lord Trimble and Dr Paisley paraded along arm-in-arm after the marchers had been let through the barricades. However, this accord between the two men was a short-lived affair.

But not long into his leadership he suffered what could have been a severe and long-term setback. The BBC TV programme, Panorama, disclosed that he had been holding private talks with the leading militant loyalist, Billy Wright, during the protracted and tense stand-off at Drumcree in 1996.

Wright was subsequently sentenced to eight years in jail for terrorist-linked offences.

Lord Trimble, who was gravely embarrassed by the disclosure, defended his actions by saying he was attempting to prevent violence breaking out at Drumcree which, unfortunately, it subsequently did.

Even so, he was accused of hypocrisy for not applying the same standards to Sinn Fein.

Lord Trimble was not always a popular leader, and his tireless negotiations towards the Good Friday Agreement, did not necessarily find him favour with all elements of his party.

One able lieutenant, indeed, William Ross, was openly hostile to the agreement which he felt was being reached down the barrel of an IRA gun.

But the outcome and the seeming ability – for the first time in living memory – for nationalists and unionists to work together for a common cause made it all seem worth while.

Soon after this came the horrific atrocity of the Omagh bomb, planted on August 15 1998, by the so-called Real IRA, a breakaway group from the provisional IRA.

This attack killed 29 civilians. Yet if anything, it helped cement even further the opposing political forces, all of whom, by then, were desperate for peace.

This was a point made by Mr Trimble in his first speech to the newly formed Assembly after a huge majority of the people of Northern Ireland had voted for peace. And he met formally for the first time Gerry Adams, the president of Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA. But there was no hand-shaking.

Lord Trimble used to worry about his appearance, not out of any sense of vanity, but because he felt it gave the wrong impression about his demeanour to people who did not know him well.

Once he said: ‘I have a problem of looking more angry than I am, and this florid complexion doesn’t help.’

He was, to some extent, a cynical politician and above all a realist. Once he said: ‘In politics you never totally trust anybody because you never know what is going to happen. Everybody has got his own particular agenda.

‘The main question is: can you work with them?’

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