Former Northern Ireland first minister David Trimble dies aged 77

“It is with great sadness that the family of Lord Trimble announce that he passed away peacefully earlier today following a short illness”
David Trimble

David Trimble

Brett CampbellBelfast Telegraph

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.

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.

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“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.”

Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O’Neill has offered her condolences to the Trimble family.

"It is with genuine regret that I have learned of the passing of former First Minister, David Trimble,” she said.

"I wish to offer my sincere condolences to his wife Daphne, their four children and wider family circle who will feel his loss deeply.

“David Trimble’s very significant contribution to the peace process and his courage in helping achieve the Good Friday Agreement leaves a legacy a quarter century on which he and his family can be rightly proud of.”

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said he is “deeply saddened” as he hailed Lord Timble’s “huge contribution” to our society.

“Throughout some of the most difficult years of the Troubles David was a committed and passionate advocate for the Union, at a time when doing so placed a considerable threat to his safety,” he said.

“Whilst our political paths parted within the Ulster Unionist Party, there can be no doubting his bravery and determination in leadership at that time.

“He was a committed and passionate unionist who always wanted the best for Northern Ireland.

Sir Jeffrey said Lord Trimble used his “political skill and intellect” even in recent times citing his support of the Brexit and opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol as examples.

“As a Nobel laureate, his words carried significant weight and he helped raise awareness of the threat the protocol posed to Northern Ireland, particularly amongst the wider UK audience,” he added.

“He leaves a huge and lasting legacy to Northern Ireland.

“He can undoubtedly be said to have shaped history in our country.”

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

“I am greatly saddened to learn of the passing of Lord David Trimble and wish to express to Lady Trimble and the family sincere condolences,” he said.

“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."

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