Lord Trimble, the former first minister of Northern Ireland and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, has died at the age of 77, his family announced on Monday.
The Ulster Unionist Party released a statement on behalf of the Trimble family, which said he had “passed away earlier today following a short illness”.
He was hailed as a “brilliant statesman” whose legacy will “live on forever” thanks to his work on the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which brought to an end the decades-long Troubles in the province and re-established the Stormont devolved parliament.
The then leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) was the first person to hold the office of first minister of Northern Ireland.
Together with John Hume, the then leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, he was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998 for his work on the Good Friday Agreement, also known as the Belfast Agreement.
Doug Beattie, the current leader of the UUP, said: “David Trimble was a man of courage and vision. He chose to grasp the opportunity for peace when it presented itself and sought to end the decades of violence that blighted his beloved Northern Ireland.
“He will forever be associated with the leadership he demonstrated in the negotiations that led up to the 1998 Belfast Agreement.
“The bravery and courage he demonstrated whilst battling his recent illness was typical of the qualities he showed in his political career, at Stormont and at Westminster.”
Boris Johnson said Trimble was “a giant of British and international politics and will be long remembered for his intellect, personal bravery and fierce determination to change politics for the better”.
Former prime minister Sir Tony Blair said his contribution was "immense, unforgettable and frankly irreplaceable".
Sir John Major, the former prime minister who spent years working towards the peace process, said Trimble had made “a brave and principled” change of his party’s policy to enable the agreement, adding: “He thoroughly merits an honourable place amongst peacemakers.”
Brandon Lewis, the former Northern Ireland secretary, said:
Incredibly sad news that David Trimble has died. A brilliant statesman and dedicated public servant, his legacy as an architect of the Good Friday Agreement will live on forever. The people of the UK owe him an immense debt of gratitude for all he achieved for our Union.
— Brandon Lewis (@BrandonLewis) July 25, 2022
Maros Sefcovic, the EU's Brexit negotiator, paid tribute to the "crucial role" Lord Trimble played in securing the Good Friday Agreement, calling his work "an enduring legacy that will never be forgotten".
Colum Eastwood, the current leader of the SDLP, said:
David Trimble was one of the most consequential political leaders of the last century whose life left an indelible mark on our shared island’s story.
He doesn’t often get enough credit but without his political bravery and the risks he took, there would have been no agreement.
— Colum Eastwood 🇺🇦 (@columeastwood) July 25, 2022
Alastair Campbell, who worked for Sir Tony Blair when the former prime minister signed the agreement, said:
Very sad to hear that David Trimble has died. The peace process in Northern Ireland, and the Good Friday Agreement in particular, would not have happened without him. He could be a difficult and mercurial character but he was the right man in the right place at the right time 1/2
— ALASTAIR CAMPBELL (@campbellclaret) July 25, 2022
Lord Trimble was prepared to compromise to get the deal over the line, agreeing that Sinn Fein could take part in the devolved government before the IRA had completed the process of decommissioning its weapons.
He was particularly criticised by the Democratic Unionist Party, and in 2005 he lost the Westminster seat he had held since 1990 to a DUP challenger.
He resigned the leadership of the UUP and accepted a life peerage. In 2007, he left the UUP to join the Conservative Party.
Shailesh Vara, the new Northern Ireland Secretary, said:
The loss of David Trimble will be felt deeply throughout Northern Ireland. My heart goes out to his family and friends. He will be remembered for his unshaking defence of peace, and his leadership in helping deliver the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.
— Shailesh Vara MP (@ShaileshVara) July 25, 2022
Meanwhile, Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, said:
Very sad news.
David Trimble was a towering figure of Northern Ireland and British politics as one of the key authors of the Good Friday Agreement, the first First Minister and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.
My thoughts are with Lady Trimble and their family. https://t.co/zzGc1DNvIf
— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) July 25, 2022
Gerry Adams, the former Sinn Fein leader, expressed his “deep regret” at Lord Trimble’s death, saying: “David faced huge challenges when he led the Ulster Unionist Party in the Good Friday Agreement negotiations and persuaded his party to sign on for it. It is to his credit that he supported that agreement. I thank him for that.”
Both Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, the Tory leadership candidates, paid tribute to Lord Trimble at the start of the BBC’s hustings event on Monday, describing him as a “political giant”.