David Trimble

David Trimble (1944-2022) was a Unionist politician prominent in Northern Ireland’s peace process and its post-1998 government.

david trimble

He was born William David Trimble to middle-class Presbyterian parents in Bangor, just outside Belfast. An outstanding student, he graduated from Queen’s University with a law degree in 1968. Trimble then completed postgraduate studies and returned to Queen’s as a lecturer, a position he held for 12 years.

Trimble was also active in hardline Unionist politics during the 1970s. In 1973, he joined the Vanguard Unionist Progressive Party (VUPP), or Ulster Vanguard, a Loyalist group with neo-fascist trappings and close ties with paramilitary groups. Trimble served as deputy leader of the Ulster Vanguard for a brief period, opposing the Sunningdale Agreement.

When the VUPP was dissolved in 1978, Trimble became a member of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP). He held several party leadership and administration roles during the 1980s. In February 1990 Trimble was elected to the British House of Commons, in a by-election for the seat of Upper Bann. Five years later, he was elected UUP party leader.

Trimble was known for his strident and outspoken Loyalism in public. In 1995 he courted controversy by joining Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Ian Paisley on an Orange Order march through Catholic areas of Portadown, a march that triggered police action and some violence.

Behind the scenes, however, Trimble demonstrated a willingness to engage and negotiate. In late 1995, he met with Irish Taoiseach John Bruton in Dublin. In 1997, he became the first Unionist leader in 75 years to hold talks with Sinn Fein.

Trimble’s willingness to engage and to compromise was pivotal to the success of the Good Friday Agreement. He represented the UUP in talks leading to the agreement and, in October 1998, was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with Nationalist politician John Hume. These efforts did not sit well with hardline Loyalists like Paisley, who called the Nobel Prize “a bit of a farce”.

In July 1998, Trimble was elected as Northern Ireland’s inaugural First Minister, a position he held for more than four years. Trimble lost his Westminster seat in May 2005 and immediately resigned as UUP leader. In 2006, he was given a life peerage and titled Baron Trimble of Lisnagarvey. He continued to sit in the House of Lords until his death in July 2022.

Citation information
Title: “David Trimble”
Authors: Rebekah Poole, Jennifer Llewellyn
Publisher: Alpha History
URL: https://alphahistory.com/northernireland/david-trimble/
Date published: January 30, 2018
Date revised: July 26, 2022
Date accessed: March 21, 2023
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