Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Trimble - a bump along the way

I missed yet another great programme: this time it was "Out in the Cold", an account of the rise and fall of David Trimble, last night on BBC2 (small write-up here).

The striking thing about the 10 years in which Trimble reigned supreme in Unionism (1995 to 2005) was that he was elected leader of the UUP on a 'hardline' ticket as a conservative unionist very much in the old mould of Carson, Craig and, indeed, Paisley. And what a surprise it was when he was the very one to follow Tony Blur into a series of negotiations and 'choreographed' sequences of rapprochement aimed at moving the vast body of Ulster unionism away from the 'what we have we hold' mentality and into partnership with people who had spent 30 years murdering their relatives.

It was indeed a 'seismic shift', and one too seismic to be achieved in 10 years, or even a generation. Trimble fell from power, and from grace, as large swathes of that vast body of unionism switched their support to Ian Paisley's DUP, a party with policies and attitudes well to the right of traditional unionism in Ireland.

In my view, the negative aspects of Trimble's legacy were not that he was thwarted from delivering on the Good Friday Agreement (regrettable though that still is) but that the hasty, fast-track approach espoused almost universally by Downing Street, with Trimble cast as the implementation manager among his own (increasingly sceptical) people, drove ordinary non-sectarian Ulster Protestants into the arms - and the hands - of Ian Paisley who never in his wildest dreams could have imagined such a late-career fillip.

Too much too quickly.

The day will come when a suggestion by a Sinn Féin president that he and the political leader of Ulster Protestants go away for a weekend to understand each other better will be welcomed (and Gerry Adams is to be commended for trying), but that will take time. We already have social and political equality in Northern Ireland - a major step forward. One day, I hope, people's politics will have more to do with their social aspirations than the church their great-great-great-great grandparents attended, and on that day I'm sure we'll look back on David Trimble (and Gerry Adams) as visionaries who tried but who, in David's case, were ahead of their times.

5 Comments:

At 9:28 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Trimble has never got the recogniton he deserved. Along with Hume he took the risks, ones which eventually destroyed him and the liberal wing of unionism. The blame for that lies largely with Adams,SF and the Republicans' military wing who still even today are happy to play the game of sectarian one-up manship rather than genuinely seeking a peaceful solution to our problems.

 
At 4:38 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem was that he DIDN'T take the risks of accepting the agreement as it was written. He went along with the Brits and refused to support a meaningful Assembly until far too late.

To be honest I don't see why Sinn Fein still support a separate Norn Ireland Assembly, although from Morrison's recent columns it would seem that they do.

Move on into 32 county politics. Ten years to the Centennial and interest into what lay behind the 1916 Rising will be increasing all that time.

 
At 7:05 p.m., Anonymous Tony said...

I can't believe anyone would regard David(Garvaghy Rd triumphalist) Trimble as a liberal visionary. He should have been ashamed to accept a peace prize, for what? Blair forcing him to treat his fellow countrymen with a degree of equality.
Why do you constantly slate the IRA as indiscriminate killers of Prods? Do you really not know your recent history, or are you naive enough to follow the media led gangsta rap theory. Undoubtedly without armed resistance and the resiliance of the Nationalist community, there would be no equality of the kind we see today.

 
At 10:37 p.m., Blogger B.U. said...

Tony, I know my recent history; I grew up in that history, and I live in it. The IRA murdered two of my friends and one of my relatives. One was a policeman (a law-abiding, moral guy with no trace of malice), one was a newly-qualified nurse and one was a schoolboy of 16. From my site you'll know I want to reach out hands of friendship to all, I want power-sharing government with all people represented, and I want to retain the equality we now have, but don't ever, ever tell me the IRA were anything other than ruthless, indiscriminate killers. They are/were political idealists, and to them any life was worth snuffing out to achieve it.

 
At 7:18 p.m., Anonymous tony said...

John, i can only offer my sincere condolences for the loss of your loved ones. There are many like you who have suffered and i do not pretend to understand your loss.

Having read some of your input and the way you describe the armed struggle, i feel your analysis does not and will not bear out. I am glad to read that you may not have the same inbuilt bigotry seemingly wedded to unionism. It is also great to note that you and i share the view that a future based on eqality is the way forward.

 

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