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Northern Ireland Nobel Peace Prize winner Trimble dies

#Northern #Ireland #Nobel #Peace #Prize #winner #Trimble #dies

David Trimble, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning former First Minister of Northern Ireland whose statecraft helped end decades of conflict, died on Monday aged 77, his party said.

Trimble, a key architect of the landmark 1998 peace deal in troubled Britain, won the award alongside pro-Irish leader John Hume the year after the couple sealed the historic deal.

“It is with great sadness that Lord Trimble’s family announces that he has passed away peacefully today after a short illness,” the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) said in a statement.

No further information was given about his death.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson described Trimble as “a giant of British and international politics”.

He “will long be remembered for his intellect, personal courage and fierce determination to change politics for the better,” Johnson tweeted.

Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin praised the Nobel laureate as “someone who played a crucial and courageous role in bringing peace to Northern Ireland”.

“All of us in politics at the time witnessed his decisive and courageous role in the negotiations that led to the Good Friday Agreement (1998) and his leadership in building his party and community support for the agreement,” he added.

Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill, who is set to become Northern Ireland’s first female minister after her nationalist party won a historic victory in May’s general election, lauded Trimble’s “very significant contribution to the peace process”.

“His courage in helping achieve the Good Friday Agreement, a quarter century later, leaves a legacy of which he and his family should be rightly proud,” she added.

Trimble’s death comes at a time of renewed tensions in Northern Ireland with the now dominant pro-British force, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), refusing to serve under O’Neill until London tears up a post-Brexit trade deal with the Europeans Union.

The UK government is enforcing legislation to unilaterally rewrite the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol, leading to legal action by the EU.

But the DUP has still refused to enter the power-sharing government with Sinn Féin.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who authored the controversial law and is running to succeed Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, praised Trimble as a “great figure”.

He was, she tweeted, “instrumental in delivering the Belfast Good Friday Agreement and today’s upbeat Northern Ireland.”

Opening a televised debate with Truss, her Conservative Party rival Rishi Sunak also hailed Trimble as “a giant of unionism” who was “a deserving Nobel Peace Prize winner.”

– “Huge and Lasting Legacy” –

The 1998 Good Friday Agreement largely ended the 30-year conflict in Northern Ireland that claimed 3,500 lives.

Despite opposition from within the Unionist community, which firmly believes in Northern Ireland’s place in the UK, Trimble brought his party together in the tense peace talks.

As part of the process, he was the first party leader in 30 years to meet the Irish Prime Minister in Dublin, and in 1997 he was the first union leader since the partition of Ireland to negotiate with Sinn Féin.

Then-Nationalist Party leader Gerry Adams acknowledged the challenges Trimble faced in convincing his own side.

“David’s contribution to the Good Friday Agreement and the quarter century of relative peace that followed cannot be underestimated,” he said.

After the 1998 Agreement, Trimble served as First Minister for Northern Ireland.

The UUP’s popularity waned, however, amid unionists’ distaste for elements of the 1998 accord that were deemed too accommodating for Republicans.

It was eventually ousted by the rival DUP as the largest union party.

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson also paid tribute to Trimble.

“During some of the most difficult years of the riots, David was a dedicated and passionate supporter of the Union at a time when it seriously threatened his security,” he said.

“He leaves Northern Ireland with a great and lasting legacy. One can say without a doubt that he shaped the history of our country.”

Trimble, who led the UUP for a decade from 1995, lost his seat in the British House of Commons in 2005 and sat as a peer in the House of Lords – the upper chamber of the British Parliament – from 2006.

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