Former Northern Ireland First Minister David Trimble dies aged 77

Former Northern Ireland First Minister David Trimble has died at the age of 77.

The Ulster Unionist was one of the key figures in the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, which led to him winning the Nobel Peace Prize along with the SDLP’s John Hume.

“It is with great sadness that the family of Lord Trimble announce that he passed away peacefully earlier today following a short illness,” the UUP said in a statement.

The current UUP party leader Doug Beattie paid tribute.

“Tonight’s news will cause deep sadness throughout Northern Ireland and much further afield,” Mr Beattie said.

“David Trimble was a man of courage and vision. 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.

“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.”

Tributes have been paid across the political spectrum.

DUP Leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said, “I am deeply saddened to learn of David’s passing and my thoughts are foremost with Daphne and their children at this painful time of loss. He made a huge contribution to Northern Ireland, and to political life in the United Kingdom.

“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. 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.

“Right until recent days David continued to use his political skill and intellect, most recently in support of the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union and in opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol. 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 leaves a huge and lasting legacy to Northern Ireland. He can undoubtedly be said to have shaped history in our country.”

Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill said: "It is with genuine regret that I have learned of the passing of former First Minister, David Trimble.

"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.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: "He was a giant of British and international politics and will be long remembered for his intellect, personal bravery and fierce determination to change politics for the better."

SDLP leader Colm Eastwood says Mr Trimble has left a lasting legacy.

“David Trimble’s life has 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 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.

“My thoughts and prayers are with Daphne, Richard, Victoria, Nicholas and Sarah at this difficult time. I hope they are comforted by the immense legacy that David left to the people of Northern Ireland.”

David Trimble (r) with John Hume Credit: Pacemaker

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Shailesh Vara MP, offered his condolences:

“The loss of Lord Trimble will be felt deeply throughout Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom and across these isles. My condolences to his wife and children, who I know will draw comfort from the legacy he leaves,” he said.

“He will be remembered by us all for his statesmanship, defence of peace, of democracy and for his steadfast leadership in helping deliver the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement. He will be remembered as one of the giants of Northern Irish politics.

“I am deeply grateful for his commitment to the reconciliation process and the profound impact he had on bringing about peace for Northern Ireland today.”

The Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: “I wish to express my deepest condolences to the family, colleagues and friends of David Trimble.

“He played a key role as leader of the UUP, and his was a long and distinguished career in Unionist politics and in the politics of Northern Ireland.

“All of us in politics at the time witnessed his crucial and courageous role in the negotiations leading to the Good Friday Agreement and his leadership in building support in his party and his community for the Agreement.

“Fittingly, his contribution was recognised internationally and most notably by the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to himself and John Hume ‘for their joint efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Northern Ireland’.

“As the first First Minister of Northern Ireland he began the arduous work of bedding down the Executive and delivering for the people of Northern Ireland.

“In his speech accepting the Nobel Prize, Trimble spoke about the ‘politicians of the possible’, a phrase which I think sums up the David Trimble we all knew, and it speaks to his achievements over many decades, often in challenging circumstances.

“The work of reconciliation begun in the Good Friday Agreement continues, and as new generations pick up the mantle of this work, it is fitting that we pay tribute to Lord Trimble for his central contribution in setting us on the path to peace and reconciliation.”

Alliance Leader Naomi Long said: “My thoughts are with the friends and family of Lord Trimble.

“My sympathies are also with his former colleagues in the UUP. 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. 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 added his sympathies.

“I was saddened to hear of the death of David Trimble. He 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.

“Northern Ireland would be a much poorer place without his achievements. I join in expressing sympathy to Daphne and to their family and colleagues."

TUV leader Jim Allister said: “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.

“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.”

Lord Trimble at the unveiling of a portrait in June Credit: Pacemaker

Brandon Lewis, who resigned as Northern Ireland secretary earlier this month, tweeted: "Incredibly sad news that David Trimble has died. A brilliant statesman and dedicated public servant, his legacy as an architect of the Good Friday Agreement will live on forever. The people of the UK owe him an immense debt of gratitude for all he achieved for our Union."

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer tweeted: "Very sad news. David Trimble was a towering figure of Northern Ireland and British politics as one of the key authors of the Good Friday Agreement, the first First Minister and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. My thoughts are with Lady Trimble and their family."

Ireland's further education minister Simon Harris extended his "deepest sympathy" to Lord Trimble's family.

In a post on Twitter Mr Harris said: "Sending deepest sympathy to the family & friends of David Trimble.

"Sad to hear of his passing tonight. He played a very important role in building peace on our island. May he rest in peace."

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