Lord Trimble has shrugged off the fact that the Legg Inquiry into Parliamentary expenses had compelled him to pay back his £805 subscription to an exclusive gentlemen’s club.
The Conservative peer and former First Minister told the Belfast Telegraph: “I’ve simply been playing it by the rules all along. Originally the House of Commons Fees Office passed my annual subscription to the Athenaeum Club, according to their rules.
“Sir Thomas Legg’s Inquiry has either changed the rules or placed another interpretation to those rules, so I’m simply playing it by the book and have paid back the subscription. It isn’t worth questioning and I will remain a member of the club. That’s all there is to it.”
The club — in London’s Pall Mall — dates back to 1824 and was founded by John Wilson Croker and Sir Thomas Lawrence and boasts peers, Cabinet members and bishops among its members. Distinguished former members include Winston Churchill, HH Asquith, D’Israeli, Charles Darwin, Sir Walter Scott, Rudyard Kipling, Cecil Rhodes and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Its facilities include a library with 80,000 volumes, a smoking room, dining rooms, a suite of bedrooms and a garden room.
It derives its name from Athene, the goddess of wisdom, war, strategy, industry, justice and skill.
Lord Trimble is one of several Parliamentarians within its membership, and one of 52 Nobel Prize winners in its history.
Symon Ross yesterday made an unsuccessful attempt to join the Atheneum Club. This is what happened when he called. . .
Q. Hello, I would like to inquire about how I would go about joining the club.
A. Membership is drawn from within, it isn’t possible to apply.
Q. Does that mean I would need an existing member to recommend me?
A. Yes it does.
Q. If I found someone to recommend me what would the process be?
A. They would propose you and then there would be another member who would second you and then other members within the club would support you.
Q. Is there a certain number of people you accept every year?
A. No, it doesn’t really work like that, we have elections throughout the year for membership.
Q. I am from Belfast, does it matter where in the country you come from.
A. No sir, we have a worldwide membership.
Q. Could you tell me the name of somebody who could propose me?
A. No, we would not disclose the names of our members.