French President pays tribute to David Trimble
Death of David Trimble – Communiqué issued by the Presidency of the Republic
Paris, 27 July 2022
The former First Minister of Northern Ireland, David Trimble – who worked on reconciliation between the Republicans, mostly Catholic and in favour of the reunification of Ireland, and the Unionists, mostly Protestant and supporters of keeping the province within the United Kingdom –, passed away on Monday.
He was born in Northern Ireland, in Bangor, from whose shores, on a clear day, he could see Britain. His family’s modest background did not prevent him from studying law at Queens University Belfast, where he became a lecturer. His strong beliefs led him to the Unionists and the Vanguard party, which opposed the first negotiated agreements in the 1970s and 1980s. His election as head of the Ulster Unionist Party in 1995 therefore seemed to herald a tough, intransigent line.
Yet David Trimble surprised the whole political world through his ability to sit at the negotiating table, where he took on a role as mediator, and move towards reconciliation. He then devoted all his energy to getting his fellow citizens to lay down their weapons, through dialogue and compromise. His handshakes with U2 singer Bono, who sang “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, and the Catholic political leader John Hume during a peace concert in Belfast were small gestures which influenced the course of history: a few months later the Yes vote won in the referendum on the Good Friday Agreement, signed on 10 April 1998.
After laying the foundations of the agreement, he helped get it accepted by all Northern Irelanders. He set about implementing it and making it a reality, leading the first power-sharing government to emerge from it. The Nobel Peace Prize, which he shared with John Hume, crowned this patient role as tightrope walker and architect, which succeeded in ending three decades of fratricidal, bloody conflict.
President Macron pays tribute to a peacemaker, whose efforts are a source of inspiration in Europe and the world. France extends its sincere condolences to Lord Trimble’s family./.