Belfast Telegraph

Bill Clinton's praise for Trimble after he got UUP's 'crazies' to agree to power-sharing

By Suzanne Breen

Former US President Bill Clinton thought that David Trimble did a "brilliant" job in convincing the "crazies" in his own party to sign up to a package to restore power-sharing in May 2000.

Mr Clinton's views of the unnamed Ulster Unionist insiders are contained in transcripts of telephone calls between the former President and key players in the peace process.

The documents, which were released by the Clinton Presidential Library to The Irish Times, show his extensive involvement in the twists and turns of the early stages of the process.

The files appear to show that Mr Clinton had a more relaxed and warmer relationship with Sinn Fein figures than he had with Mr Trimble. In a call to the then UUP leader he said that "most of your people think I have been too close to them".

During a call after the Good Friday Agreement was endorsed in the 1998 referendum, Mr Clinton congratulated Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, who then asked him to say hello to his wife Collette.

"I'm very proud of my husband," she said.

After the referendum Mr Clinton told Taoiseach Bertie Ahern: "Bertie, it's a great day for the Irish. You must know by name every SOB that voted in the Republic."

The call with Mr Trimble was more restrained. "If it was a Westminster election today I would have lost my seat," the UUP leader admitted.

"I have a problem but it will come right. I am now looking for Adams to divvy up. There are a number of things he has got to do..."

The following year as the peace process hit problems, Mr Clinton was keen to support the UUP leader who could be "deposed" by internal opponents.

He told Mr Trimble: "You guys can wake me up in the middle of the night if you think of anything I can do or say that will either help you with your own people."

Mr Trimble appreciated the offer but added: "I will try not to disturb your sleep."

By January 2000 Mr Adams told the President that he couldn't deliver on decommissioning with the IRA refusing to give a clear timetable.

"It is going to cause trouble within the IRA, no matter what people think - trouble within the IRA and its leadership," the Sinn Fein president said.

But Mr Clinton believed that the IRA must move and pushed Mr Adams.

He told him that Trimble "has eaten a lot more than the IRA has. He's eaten his words four or five times and then he just found a way to get out of it and survive".

In May the President called Mr Trimble to congratulate him on persuading the UUP to back a package of proposals, including the IRA's promise to decommission, to reinstate power-sharing.

"You were brilliant," Mr Clinton told him. "They may have to give you a second Nobel prize."

A few minutes later, Mr Clinton called Mr Adams. "I hated to see Trimble have to go back to all his crazies, but it came out okay."

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