Belfast Telegraph

David Trimble's last letter to Martin McGuinness: Many would feel 'greater optimism' if you were at the helm in current political crisis

Mr Trimble said Martin McGuinness was 'indispensable' to devolution

By Claire Williamson

Former Northern Ireland First Minister David Trimble wrote to Martin McGuinness after learning of his illness to tell him of his appreciation for his peace process work and how many would feel "greater optimism" if he was "at the helm" in the current political crisis.

In a letter dated March 12, which Mr Trimble has released, he said, "like many I was surprised to learn of your illness and of its seriousness".

Mr Trimble addressing the current political crisis in Northern Ireland said: "As we with the clock ticking down to the deadline for getting the institutions up and running again, who think that if you were at the helm, we would face this prospect with greater optimism".

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In the letter Mr Trimble spoke of his "appreciation" for the Sinn Fein veteran's work in bringing devolution to the Assemly.

He said: "On reflection, I thought it behoved me as the First Minister when we first achieved devolution to the Assembly created by the Good Friday Agreement some eighteen years ago, to say how much we appreciated all that you did to make that happen.

"In doing that you reached out to the Unionist community in a way some of them were reluctant to reach out to you.

"Without knowing the detail of how the republican movement moved to that point, I and my colleagues believed that you were indispensable."

Recalling the first meeting of the Executive Mr Trimble paid tribute to Mr McGuinness' character.

He said: "I think that even tempered manner was characteristic of all your time in office, and we knew that it was never at the expense of your principles.

"Perhaps the best expression of your approach was your meeting with Queen Elizabeth."

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Mr McGuinness passed away overnight at Derry's Altnagelvin Hopital with his family by his bedside.

The 66-year-old had a short battle with illnesss.

Sinn Fein said on Tuesday it is "with deep regret and sadness that we have learnt of the death of our friend and comrade Martin McGuinness who passed away in Derry during the night. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him."

Mr McGuinness had requested privacy during his illness which saw him retire from front-line politics in January.

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