Doing the right thing – but unpopularly – can result in a person being stoned from the rubble of the pedestal they once stood on.
Such was the fate of David Trimble. Ultimately, however, the tireless work he did to get union leaders to accept the Good Friday Agreement will serve as a lasting memorial.
When he took over the Official Unionist Party in 1995, replacing granitic irredentist James Molyneaux, he was perceived as an impregnable hardliner after shaking hands with DUP leader Ian Paisley in a triumphant march down the nationalist Garvaghy Road at the height of the bitter Drumcree confrontation that same year.
But some grow smaller under the weight of leadership, and some grow with it. Among the latter was David Trimble. From the start he told his party that political times were changing. You either have to change or be left behind.
A shy, sometimes irritable nature made him appear aloof and aloof, but if his personal pleasures were not best suited to the world of politics, his instincts were.
He never claimed to be an architect of the historic accord that ended the riots, but that milestone in 1998 would not have been reached without his fine-tuning and dogged determination to secure the best possible deal for the union movement.
Not a man for compromises, he always stuck it out until he was sure that a concession was the lesser of two evils. His decisions were eventually vindicated by the decades of peace that followed.
However, they have cost him dearly. Key members of his party – including Jeffrey Donaldson and Arlene Foster – would join the DUP.
Trimble’s eventual agreement to work with Sinn Féin before the shutdown — a red line among unionists and loyalists — was a step too far for many. The DUP eventually thrived as opposition to concessions for Republicans hardened.
Trimble’s sharing of the Nobel Peace Prize with John Hume in 1998 brought his efforts worldwide recognition.
On the more unforgiving streets of Belfast, however, sections of unions saw such pragmatism as a sellout. Accepting the award, he said the shadow of Northern Ireland’s past should not be allowed to cloud its future.
From then on, he directed his energies towards allowing new generations to walk underneath.
He brought the time, courage and dedication to work toward such a goal, with little thanks for his efforts. He made progress by only focusing on what he called “the realms of possibility.”
His hope was “to leave behind us the dark mud of sectarianism.” Nobody should pretend that there is nothing more to do in this regard.
He sure did all he could for a man. Although he was steeped in Unionist tradition, he did not let it blind him. He opposed both nationalists and unionists when he saw fit.
Most importantly, he left Northern Ireland better than he found it.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/editorial/david-trimble-did-all-he-could-and-ireland-is-the-better-for-it-41870069.html David Trimble did everything he could and Ireland are better for it