UK: David Trimble, a former Northern Ireland First Minister, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in ending decades of violence, has died, the Ulster Unionist Party said on Monday. He was 77 years old. The UUP said in a statement, “It is with great sadness that the family of Lord Trimble announce that he passed away peacefully earlier today following a short illness.”
Trimble, who led the UUP from 1995 to 2005, was a key architect of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which chronicled three decades of violent conflict in Northern Ireland known as “The Troubles”. “A political giant, a courageous politician, a staunch unionist and a friend,” Doug Beattie, the current UUP leader, said on Twitter, adding in a statement he was “a man of courage and vision”. The party said in a statement on behalf of the Trimble family that the federalist politician died on Monday “after a short illness”.
The leader of Britain’s opposition Labor Party, Keir Starmer, called Trimble “a big figure in Northern Ireland and British politics” in a tweet on Monday. The UUP was the largest Protestant unionist party in Northern Ireland when it agreed to a Good Friday peace deal under the leadership of Trimble. The 1998 Good Friday accord largely ended 30 years of conflict in Northern Ireland that killed 3,500, and is still hailed as a shining example of statecraft.
He was the first leader of the party to meet the Irish Premier in Dublin in 30 years. In 1997, Trimble became the first unionist leader to negotiate with the Irish Republican Party, Sinn Féin. Trimble shared the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize for his work with Catholic liberal leader John Hume, head of the Social Democratic and Labor Party. Hume passed away in August 2020.He became the first minister in the first power-sharing government of Northern Ireland that same year, with Seamus Mallon of the SDLP as Deputy First Minister. But both the UUP and the SDLP soon found themselves eclipsed by more radical parties – the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin. Trimble struggled to keep his party together as the power-sharing government was shaken by disagreements over disarmament of the IRA and other paramilitary groups.Trimble, senior aides who had joined the DUP, lost his seat in the UK Parliament in 2005 and, soon after, he resigned as party leader.
The following year he was appointed to the upper house of parliament, the House of Lords. Since then, Northern Ireland’s power-sharing has gone through several crises – but the peace deal has largely come to an end. Brandon Lewis, who resigned as the UK government’s Northern Ireland secretary earlier this month, called him “a brilliant statesman and dedicated public servant”.”His legacy as an architect of the Good Friday Agreement will live on forever,” he tweeted.”The people of the UK owe him an immense debt of gratitude for all he achieved for our Union.”
“The Good Friday Agreement is something everyone in Northern Ireland has been able to agree on,” Trimble said earlier this year. “It does not mean that they agree with everything. There are aspects that some people thought were a mistake, but the basic thing is that it was agreed upon.”