A man for all seasons
Politically I didn’t like or dislike David Trimble. He was a person with a detached persona. He had a political vision linked to the unconventionality of his political intelligence and imagination. All linked to construct a position of strength.
My first experience of him was when he flirted with the Vanguard Unionist Progressive Party, a party led by Bill Craig and remembered for collapsing the Sunningdale Agreement. Then later when seen on television walking hand in hand with his arch-rival Ian Paisley. The mould was created and he went on to lead the Ulster Unionist party. He was regarded as a hardliner and signalled a fundamental departure in unionist strategy. His election brought collective groans from the British and Irish political observers. However, he represented unrest within unionism at the evolution of the ongoing peace process, but interestingly opposed a loyalist effort to reinvent the Stormont regime. Trimble was very conscious of Irish history and had written pamphlets on it.
He identified along the way nationalists aspirations and a growing optimism. Winning a Westminster seat for Upper Bann and securing leadership of the UUP – Trimble was a rising star.
Serious political efforts to end the conflict in the north of Ireland had began in the late 1980s and continued through the 1990s. A final national/international agreement, after very many years of complex talks was agreed on Good Friday 1998. It was rejected by the DUP but the UUC claimed it was necessary to allow a fresh start for the north and secured the union – Sunningdale for the slow learners. Direct rule from Westminster ended and a new assembly came into effect, with David Trimble First Minister and Seamus Mallon Deputy First Minister.
Going into the executive without any explicit undertaking that the IRA would do no more than engage in formal discussion with the disarmament commission spelt virtual doom for Trimble.
In the period after the GFA, Trimble had to battle on a number of fronts, personally debilitating and capable of demolishing the agreement.
In the UK general elections of 2005, David Trimble failed in his bid for re-election to Westminster when he was defeated by the DUP’s candidate. The UUP retained only one seat. After, David Trimble resigned as leader of the party. Just as the UUP lost seats to the DUP, so the SDLP lost seats to Sinn Féin. The IRA eventually did decommission. It was however done for Paisley and the DUP, not for Trimble. Mary Kelly in a recent article in The Irish News wrote: “The IRA decided he was a busted flush and they stalled decommissioning until the DUP were the boys in the big picture. He retreated to the British House of Lords and into history.” His life and events could be compared to those of Sir Thomas More – a man for all seasons.
JAMES G BARRY
Sinn Féin not only ones who seek to justify political violence
Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle O’Neill was asked in an interview for the BBC Red Lines podcast: “Do you still feel that it was right at that time, for members of your family and others, to engage in violent resistance to British rule here?” She replied: “I think at the time there was no alternative …”
In human interactions there are always peaceful alternatives to political violence. Violence begets further violence. The statement by DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson that: “There is no justification for how the IRA targeted Northern Ireland citizens who were from all faiths and backgrounds and entirely innocent” is a valid one, but it also applies to unjustified violence by loyalists and by British security forces. Sinn Féin are not the only ones who seek to justify political violence. William T Cosgrave, leader of the Free State government during the civil war, is quoted as saying: “I am not going to hesitate and if the country is to live and if we have to exterminate 10,000 republicans, the three millions of our people are bigger than the 10,000.” Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil should use the centenary of the civil war to apologise for crimes committed by their predecessors during the War for Independence and the Civil War. If Sinn Féin is to lead this country into the future and into a genuine unity of all the peoples living on this island, it too needs to acknowledge the mistakes and the crimes committed by IRA volunteers otherwise the cycle of political violence will continue. Internationally far more needs to be spent on conflict prevention and far less on arms production and militarisation.
Castletroy, Co Limerick
Speakers of hubris and humbug
T he Stormont meeting to select a Speaker was an enlightening experience for all we voters, as our respective political representatives sallied forth with their well prepared five-minute speeches. Sinn Féin’s first lady prattling on, followed by the DUP. This party should engage the TUV leader to write their speeches, he, at least, seemed to understand what this maligned protocol is all about – subject of course to him getting time off from his residency on the Nolan Show. The Alliance just test which way the political wind is blowing and follow it. As for the SDLP, so ineffective was their outpouring that in future they must refrain from making any kind of speech.
We would have more admiration for the two major political parties if, on behalf of the electorate, they would accept their responsibilities instead of blaming each other for their mutual predicament. At the very least it does a disservice to the state, and is far removed from the aspirations of the Good Friday Agreement, and as their speeches portrayed, can only be described as a display of hubris and humbug in an ongoing political circus of hatred and bile.
Heinous act against humanity
I feel I must air my growing concern that Chris Patten’s report, outlining his vision for a new beginning to policing, has hit the buffers and in the light of recent events is creating a disconnect among nationalists/republicans in the north with regards to policing. We have had numerous well-documented controversies. However, I don’t think any of us could have been prepared for the most recent disclosure that personally made me sick to my stomach.
To find that the police had allegedly defiled and dehumanised a deceased person by photographing them leads us to be blunt and call it for what it is – a heinous act against humanity. My thoughts are with the next of kin.