William David Trimble, Baron Trimble, PC (born October 15, 1944), is a politician from Northern Ireland who served as leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and the first First Minister of Northern Ireland. He shared the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize with John Hume of the Social Democratic and Labour Party. He served as Member of Parliament for Upper Bann from 1990 until 2005, when he was defeated in the British general election and resigned the leadership of the UUP soon afterwards. On June 6, 2006, he became a member of the House of Lords as The Right Honourable William David Trimble by the name, style and title of Baron Trimble, of Lisnagarvey in the County of Antrim. On April 17, 2007, he announced that he was to leave the UUP and join the national Conservative Party.
He is married to his former student, Daphne Orr, and they have four children. He has no children from his first marriage, which ended in divorce. Although a staunch Protestant and member of the Orange Order, Trimble was able to reach across both the religious and the political divide to enter peace negotiations and to agree a new power-sharing system of governance. Most Catholics in Ireland want union with the Republic of Ireland, most Protestants oppose this is favor of continued membership of the United Kingdom. He is a strong believer in civil society and in the political, democratic process. In his Nobel Lecture, he credited the fact that despite violence on both sides, "paramilitarism never displaced politics" and Northern Ireland, "thank God, stopped short of that abyss that engulfed Bosnia, Kosovo, Somalia, and Rwanda." He expressed some skepticism that lessons can easily be transferred from one conflict to others, given that each have their own histories and issues. While there were two religious denominations in Northern Ireland, there was only "one true moral denomination," which "wanted peace," he said.
Education and early career
Lord Trimble was educated at Bangor Grammar School in Bangor, County Down, and at the Queen's University of Belfast (QUB), where he received a First class honors degree, becoming a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B). He qualified as a barrister in Northern Ireland in 1969, and became a lecturer in law at QUB, becoming a Senior Lecturer in 1977. He served as head of the Department of Commercial and Property Law from 1980 to 1989.
David Trimble became involved with the Vanguard Progressive Unionist Party in the early 1970s, and ran unsuccessfully for the party in the 1973 Assembly elections for North Down. In 1974, he acted as legal adviser to the Ulster Workers' Council during the paramilitary-controlled Ulster Workers' Strike, during which loyalist paramilitaries intimidated thousands of utility workers. He was elected to the Northern Ireland Convention in 1975, as a Vanguard Progressive Unionist Party member for South Belfast and for a time he served as the party's joint-deputy leader, along with the Ulster Defence Association's Glenn Barr. The party had been established by William Craig to oppose sharing power with Irish Nationalists, and to prevent closer ties with the Republic of Ireland, however Trimble was one of those to back Craig when the party split over Craig's proposal to allow voluntary power sharing with the SDLP.
When the Vanguard party collapsed, he joined the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) in 1978, and was elected one of the four party secretaries. He ran unsuccessfully for the UUP in the 1981 council elections in the Lisburn area. He was elected to Westminster in a by-election in Upper Bann in 1990. He was one of the few British politicians who urged support for Bosnia and Herzegovina during the Bosnian War in the 1990s. His support for an interventionist foreign policy is demonstrated by his membership of the Henry Jackson Society.
The political context
From its establishment as a province of the United Kingdom in 1920, Northern Ireland was dominated by its Protestant majority. Until its Parliament was prorogued in March 1972, due to its inability to end the violence that had started in the late 1960s, all six Prime Ministers of Northern Ireland were Protestant and members of the Unionist Party that favored union with Britain. About 60 percent of the population, the Protestants discriminated against Catholics by rigging the electoral system, by excluding them from the police service, and by giving Protestant preferential treatment in such matters as social housing. When, inspired by the civil rights movement in the United States, a civil rights movement started in Ireland in the mid 1960s, led among others by John Hume, Catholics with some Protestant support wanted justice within the present system. However, when the government only responded with force and peaceful protesters were met with bullets, more and more catholics supported the paramilitary Irish Republican Army and other, more radical organizations. Between January and May 1974, a power-executive was formed following the Sunningdale Agreement in which the UUP and the SDLP cooperated. However, the UUP later withdrew its support and the then smaller Democratic Union Party, led by Ian Paisley, pledged to wreck the agreement. The arrangement failed and Northern Ireland continued to be ruled from Westminster until its new Assembly was established in 1998. When the Anglo Irish Agreement was signed in November 1985, the DUP and the UUP again joined together in protest and all their MPs resigned. In the subsequent election, their candidates did not stand against each other.
Trimble becomes leader of Ulster Unionist Party
In 1995, Trimble was unexpectedly elected leader of the UUP, defeating the front-runner John Taylor, Baron Kilclooney. Trimble's election as party leader came in the aftermath of his leading role in the controversial Orange Order march, amidst Nationalist protest, down the predominantly Nationalist Garvaghy Road in Portadown, County Armagh. Trimble and Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Ian Paisley were infamously filmed walking hand-in-hand as the march proceeded down the road, in a controversial Orange Order march that has been banned since 1997. This has been labeled the Drumcree "Victory Jig" by some commentators who are quick to point out that while Trimble gained immediate credibility just before the leadership election, he lost it longterm. Most recently the "Victory Jig" episode was cited as an example of Trimble "manipulating" the Orange Order "to get the leadership of the Ulster Unionist Party."
Following the Good Friday Agreement of April 1998, the two Unionist parties again united both in opposition to the Agreement and against Sinn Féin's participation. Banned from participating in the peace process until its paramilitary wing, the IRA, called a cease fire in 1994, Sinn Féin would now a partner in the new Assembly. However, when on May 22, 1998, 71 percent of the population of Northern Ireland voted in favor of the Agreement, both Unionist Parties campaigned in the elections for the Assembly. The more moderate republican party, the SDLP, won the single largest share of seats, 34, followed by the DUP with 28, the UUP with 20 and Sinn Féin with 18. Trimble became First Minister on July 1, but by October 2002, the Assembly had been suspended when Unionist members walked out due to alleged espionage activities by members of Sinn Féin.
First Minister of Northern Ireland
Trimble, at first, opposed the appointment of former US Senator George J. Mitchell as the chairman of the multi-party talks which resulted in the Belfast Good Friday Agreement (GFA) of 1998. Trimble was subsequently seen as instrumental in getting his party to accept the accord. Arguments over the extent of Provisional Irish Republican Army decommissioning meant that Trimble's tenure as First Minister was repeatedly interrupted. In particular:
- The office of First Minister was suspended from February 11, 2000 to May 30, 2000
- Trimble resigned as First Minister on July 1, 2001, but was re-elected on November 5, 2001
- The Assembly has been suspended since 14 October 2002 due to accusations of an IRA spy ring being operated there (the so-called Stormontgate Affair)
Nobel Peace Prize
Later in 1998, Trimble and John Hume were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Northern Ireland. Derry journalist Eamon McCann described Trimble winning the Nobel Peace Prize as winning the lottery and not buying a ticket. Hume had been a peace campaigner since the 1960s, and behind the scenes had kept Sinn Féin informed and eventually persuaded them to join the process once they had accepted the Mitchell Principles on the decommissioning of all weapons. The process behind the 1994 IRA cease-fire has been described as the "Hume-Adams" process. (Jerry Adams is President of Sinn Féin.) Hume is also said to have made major contributions to almost every step in the long peace process, dating back to the Sunningdale Agreement, while Trimble's political party had opposed these initiatives until after the Good Friday Agreement had been ratified by the majority of the citizens of Northern Ireland. Nonetheless, if Trimble had not decided to support the Agreement, even after his initial opposition, the peace process would have been seriously compromised. It was vital that the largest Protestant party was inside, not outside, the process. The DUP, however, gained politically, picking up votes from those Protestants who did not approve of the power-sharing arrangement. In the 2007 elections, the DUP became the largest single party in the Assembly. In a surprising move, Ian Paisley agreed to work with Sinn Féin and became First Minister, technically in succession to Trimble.
There is little doubt that Trimble himself recognizes that it was Hume who won the prize and that he was co-recipient because, as he said in his speech, "the way politics work in Northern Ireland—if John Hume has a medal, it is important that I have one too." Yet, no peace process is complete if with only one partner. Without Trimble's change of heart the paramilitaries may well have returned to violence as the political process failed to deliver justice. As well as a power-sharing government, the old Protestant dominated Royal Ulster Constabulary has been replaced by a new police service which has recruited Catholic officers. There is a element of real politic in how the Prize is awarded in such cases. Similarly, in 1978, it was probably true that if Anwar Sadat was to get the Prize, Menachem Begin had to get it too, or vice versa. In 1993, its award to Nelson Mandela and to F. W de Klerk was also a recognition that both men played important, if not necessarily equal, roles in ending apartheid. In 1994, the three way split between Arafat, Peres and Rabin also recognized the political realities in Israel as well as Arafat's role as leader of the Palestinians. In the case of Hume and Trimble, as in the case of Arafat and the Israelis, the Prize was also meant to be an incentive, since in Ireland as in Israel-Palestine, peace has not yet fully arrived. Trimble hinted at this when he said, "It may seem strange that we receive the reward of a race run while the race is still not quite finished. But the paramilitaries are finished. But politics is not finished. It is the bedrock to which all societies return," again expressing his faith in the political process. In other cases, the Prize seems more a reward for having achieved a durable peace.
In presenting the Prize, Francis Sejerstad, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, stated: The two Laureates have both helped to build confidence that it is possible to arrive at reasonable compromises by peaceful means. As political leaders, they are guarantors to their constituents that peaceful methods will lead to solutions which both sides can live with, and live better than if a state of war had continued. In a tense situation, such exposed positions require large amounts of both wisdom and courage. Today's Laureates have shown both.
In the United Kingdom general elections of 2005, David Trimble failed in his bid for re-election to Parliament in Westminster when he was defeated by the Democratic Unionist Party's David Simpson. The Ulster Unionist Party retained only one seat in Parliament (out of eighteen in Northern Ireland) after the 2005 General Election, and David Trimble resigned as leader of the party on May 7, 2005. Just as the UUP lost seats to the DUP, so the SDLP lost seats to Sinn Féin.
On April 11, 2006, it was announced that Trimble would take a seat in the House of Lords as a working life peer. On May 21, 2006, it was announced that he had chosen the geographical designation Lisnagarvey, the original name for his adopted home town of Lisburn and on June 2, 2006, he was created Baron Trimble, of Lisnagarvey in the County of Antrim.
On December 18, 2006, he announced that he would be standing down from the Northern Ireland Assembly at the next election.
On April 17, 2007, Trimble announced that he had decided to join the Conservative Party in order to have greater influence in politics at a United Kingdom-wide level. At the same time, however, he stated that he did not intend to campaign against the Ulster Unionist Party, and proposed the idea of a future alliance between the Conservatives and the Ulster Unionists, similar to that which had existed prior to 1974 and the fallout of the Sunningdale Agreement.
Trimble complained to the Metropolitan Police chief Sir Ian Blair over death threats made against him on the Real Irish Republican Army (RIRA)-aligned 32 County Sovereignty Committee (32CSM) bulletin board. He said he was copying the letter to the Prime Minister, Home Secretary, Northern Ireland Secretary and Scottish Secretary. The initial posting was made by "Trimble murder suggestions" on May 19, 2006. The bulletin board has since ceased to function.
- The London Gazette, Article. Retrieved June 13, 2007.
- David Trimble, Statement by the Rt.Hon. The Lord Trimble. Retrieved June 13, 2007.
- Nobel Prize, Nobel Peace Prize for 1998 - Lecture by David Trimble. Retrieved June 13, 2007.
- www.nics.gov.uk, Northern Ireland Executive biography. Retrieved April 1, 2008.
- Tom McGurk, Trimble's Road to Nowhere. Retrieved June 13, 2007.
- BBC News, Order "Diminished," says Trimble. Retrieved June 13, 2007.
- Francis Sejerstad, The Nobel Peace Prize for 1998. Retrieved June 13, 2007.
- BBC News, New Working Life Peers Unveiled. Retrieved June 13, 2007.
- BBC News, Trimble Set to Quit Assembly Seat. Retrieved June 13, 2007.
- BBC News, Website Inciting Trimble Murder. Retrieved June 13, 2007.
ReferencesISBN links support NWE through referral fees
- Godson, Dean. Himself Alone: David Trimble and the Ordeal of Unionism. London: HarperCollins, 2004. ISBN 978-0002570985
- Kerr, Michael. Transforming Unionism: David Trimble and the 2005 General Election. Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2006. ISBN 978-0716533887
- Millar, Frank. David Trimble: The Price of Peace. Dublin: Liffey Press, 2004. ISBN 978-1904148647
All links retrieved June 27, 2022.
- TheyWorkForYou.com - David Trimble.
- Nobel Peace Prize for 1998 - Lecture by David Trimble.
- BBC News - The Search for Peace: David Trimble.
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