Trimble, Northern Ireland, Lord Trimble discussed on Monocle 24: The Foreign Desk
We are all very conscious of the fact that time is running out. And that the weekend carries with a very grave risks for society in north down. For several long and grim decades, Northern Ireland looked like roughly the last place on earth from which a Nobel Prize for peace might be prized. By the late 1990s, Northern Ireland had been consumed for three decades by the miserable sectarian conflict known as the troubles. The troubles had killed three and a half thousand people injured perhaps 50,000 caused incalculable property damage and become regarded with gloomy fatalism as just one of those things about which everybody talks, but about which nobody is actually going to do anything. But in 19 98, the Nobel Prize for peace was shared by John Hume leader of the Irish nationalist social democratic and Labor Party and David trimble leader of the Ulster unionist party. Hume died in 2020 aged 80 three, trimble died this week, aged 77. The garlanding of Hume and trimble remains one of the more astute decisions of the Norwegian Nobel committee. Yes. 71.12 percent. After the good Friday agreement was signed earlier in 1998, bringing the worst of the troubles to a close, there might have been a temptation to ennoble the leaders of the paramilitary organizations who'd waged Northern Ireland's war and had now finally agreed to give it a rest. But it was Hume and trimble who did the difficult patient work of corralling mainstream opinion in their respective communities behind Northern Ireland Messi imperfect peace. Northern Ireland's place within the United Kingdom has been secured. The act of union, the fundamental piece of legislation defining northern position within the United Kingdom remains firmly in place. The act of union is the universe. Just a few years earlier, David trimble had seemed an unlikely peacemaker. In July 1995, trimble marched at the head of the orange order's traditional annual parade down the road in portadown county armagh. Porter down is a mostly Protestant town, but the gava road is a Catholic neighborhood, whose residents had long been rolled by the spectacle of orange sashed bowler hatted men thwacking lambic drums and singing of king Billy. In 1995, Catholic protesters blocked the parade. After a two day standoff punctuated by violent clashes, it was agreed that the parade would be permitted to proceed down the road as long as it did so in silence. Between ranks of local residents with their backs turned, David trimble led the parade alongside the reverend Ian Paisley, the thunderous fire breathing voice of hardline Ulster unionism whose habitual rejections of the mildest notion of compromise had earned him the nickname Dr. No. When they reached the end of the route, trimble clasped Paisley's hand in his and held at a loft. Well, we're delighted to be back down the traditional route. In Republican and nationalist circles in Northern Ireland, this image was read as confirmation that between unionism moderates and unionism headbangers, there was not a difference on which any outreach could long live. But when trimble was asked, he claimed that he had seized Paisley's hand to prevent Paisley from making the moment as Paisley so often did all about Paisley. If trembles telling is accurate, it stands as an unbeatable metaphor for his career. For all that trimble spent a life in politics, he was never a natural politician. He often seemed aloof and austere and certainly had a marked disinclination to tell people what they wanted to hear. But after becoming leader of the Ulster unionist party in 1995, he began trying to tell the UUP's corps constituency Northern Ireland's Protestant majority who wished to remain part of the United Kingdom, what he felt they needed to hear. Trimble's message was to paint an infernally complex picture with an extremely broad brush that there was good news and bad news. The good news was that peace in Northern Ireland was possible. The bad news was that peace in Northern Ireland would necessitate accommodation with and concessions too, not merely reasonable Irish nationalists like John Hume's SDLP, but militant Irish Republicans very much including the Irish Republican army. It is entirely likely that, during Northern Ireland, stumble and grasp towards peace in the late 1990s, trimble found dealing with the other side complicated and uncomfortable, though it was vastly easier than dealing with his own. Not only was Ian Paisley continuing to enjoy the applause usually attracted by melodrama pronouncing the entire peacemaking enterprise and negotiation with the devil, but many of the more moderate unionists who voted for trembles UUP were unhappy about the pinhead tap dancing around the decommissioning of the IRA's arsenal and about the prospect of the likes of Martin McGuinness, a former commander of the IRA's Derry brigade, playing a key role in the government. We've done our bit. Mister Adams. It's over to you. We've jumped. You follow. When trimble became the inaugural first minister of Northern Ireland's new look government in 1998, McGinnis was his education minister. Within a decade, Ian Paisley would be Northern Ireland's first minister and Martin McGuinness, his deputy, and the two men would somehow forge such a friendship that they would become known by bemused colleagues as the chuckle brothers. By then, David trimble was lord trimble of Liz. He eventually left the UUP for the UK's Conservative Party. David trimble did one of the hardest things that any politician indeed any person can do. He recognized that he was a beneficiary of the status quo and understood nevertheless that it needed to change. We rise from this table knowing that the union is stronger than it was when we sat down. From monocle 24, I'm Andrew mullet.