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Former Northern Ireland first minister Lord Trimble dies

Former Northern Ireland first minister and co-architect of the Good Friday Agreement Lord Trimble has died aged 77.

In a statement on behalf of the Trimble family, the UUP said: “It is with great sadness that the family of Lord Trimble announce that he passed away peacefully earlier today following a short illness.”

Lord Trimble was one of the principal architects of the Belfast Agreement ending decades of conflict in Northern Ireland and jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize along with SDLP leader John Hume.

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.

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The current leader of the Ulster Unionist Party has led tributes on Monday evening.

Doug Beattie said there will be deep sadness throughout Northern Ireland and further afield.

David Trimble was a man of courage and vision,” he added.

“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.”

Close

John Hume with David Trimble and Tony Blair as they begin to form a government for Northern Ireland in 1998 (Pacemaker).

John Hume with David Trimble and Tony Blair as they begin to form a government for Northern Ireland in 1998 (Pacemaker).

John Hume with David Trimble and Tony Blair as they begin to form a government for Northern Ireland in 1998 (Pacemaker).

Meanwhile TUV leader Jim Allister expressed sadness as he offered his condolences.

“Though politically we fundamentally disagreed over the Belfast Agreement, latterly as joint applicants in the Judicial Review challenge to the Protocol we shared a common determination to rid Northern Ireland of this iniquitous assault on our constitutional position.

“David had a very clear and correct view of the dangers and unacceptability of the Protocol.

“I have known David and Daphne Trimble since my university days when David was one of my lecturers and Daphne was a fellow student in my law year.

“As a couple throughout their married life Daphne gave exemplary support to David and in his declining health was a tower of strength to him.

"So, in losing David, Daphne has suffered a great loss and Northern Ireland has lost a foremost thinker within unionism.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood paid tribute to the man who “left an indelible mark on our shared island’s story”.

“Over the course of his political career but particularly in difficult years of the Good Friday Agreement negotiations he demonstrated immense courage and took political risks that sustained the life of our fledgling peace process,” he said.

“He doesn’t often enough get credit for it but without David Trimble’s fortitude, there would simply have been no agreement.

“The image of David and Seamus Mallon walking through Poyntzpass together in 1998 to comfort the families of Damien Trainor and Philip Allen is an enduring icon of the peace process that inspired a whole generation of people who wanted, and needed, to believe that our shared future could be different from our divided past.

“It is my enduring memory of his commitment to reconciliation.”

Mr Eastwood said his thoughts and prayers are with Mr Trimble’s family.

“I hope they are comforted by the immense legacy that David left to the people of Northern Ireland,” he said.

Alliance leader Naomi Long also offered her sympathy to Lord Trimble’s family, friends and former colleagues as she reflected on his achievements.

“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,” she said.

“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.”

Former Alliance leader David Ford has expressed his personal sadness.

“He [Lord Trimble] led his party to – with others – reaching the Good Friday Agreement and deserves all the credit he received for his part in the peace process,” Mr Ford said.

“Northern Ireland would be a much poorer place without his achievements.

“I join in expressing sympathy to Daphne and to their family and colleagues."

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.

"My deepest condolences to Daphne and his family.

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

Former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams recalled the “huge challenges” Lord Trimble faced while negotiating peace and convincing his party to sign off on it.

“It is to his credit that he supported that Agreement,” he said.

“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.

Mr Adams said the pair “used to meet quite often on our own” and got to know each other 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,” he added.

“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 Dé go raibh a anam dílis”.


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