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David Trimble, Baron Trimble

William David Trimble, Baron Trimble (born 15 October 1944) is a Northern Irish politician from Northern Ireland who served as leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and was the first First Minister of Northern Ireland.

He shared the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize with John Hume of the Social Democratic and Labour Party. He served as Member of Parliament for Upper Bann from 1990 until 2005, when he was defeated in the British general election and resigned the leadership of the UUP soon afterwards. In June 2006 he became a member of the House of Lords as The Right Honourable William David Trimble by the name, style and title of Baron Trimble, of Lisnagarvey in the County of Antrim. In April 2007 he announced that he was to leave the UUP and join the Conservative Party.

Education and early career

David Trimble was educated at Bangor Grammar School in Bangor, County Down, and at the Queen's University of Belfast (QUB), where he received a First class honours degree, becoming a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B). He qualified as a barrister in Northern Ireland in 1969 and became a lecturer in law at QUB, becoming a Senior Lecturer in 1977. He served as head of the Department of Commercial and Property Law from 1980 to 1989.

David Trimble became involved with the Vanguard Progressive Unionist Party in the early 1970s and ran unsuccessfully for the party in the 1973 Assembly election for North Down, taking only 446 votes and last place. In 1974 he acted as legal adviser to the Ulster Workers' Council during the paramilitary-controlled Ulster Workers' Strike, during which loyalist paramilitaries intimidated thousands of utility workers. He was elected to the Northern Ireland Convention in 1975 as a Vanguard Progressive Unionist Party member for South Belfast and for a time he served as the party's joint-deputy leader, along with the Ulster Defence Association's Glenn Barr. The party had been established by William Craig to oppose sharing power with Irish Nationalists, and to prevent closer ties with the Republic of Ireland, however Trimble was one of those to back Craig when the party split over Craig's proposal to allow voluntary power sharing with the SDLP.

When the Vanguard party collapsed he joined the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) in 1978 and was elected one of the four party secretaries. He ran unsuccessfully for the UUP in the 1981 council elections in the Lisburn area. He was elected to Westminster in a by-election in Upper Bann in 1990. He was one of the few British politicians who urged support for the Islamic government of Bosnia and Herzegovina during the civil war in the 1990s. His support for an interventionist foreign policy is demonstrated by his membership of the Henry Jackson Society.

Leadership of Ulster Unionist Party

In 1995 Trimble was unexpectedly elected leader of the UUP, defeating the front-runner John Taylor. Trimble's election as party leader came in the aftermath of his role in the Drumcree conflict, in which he led a controversial Orange Order march, amidst Nationalist protest, down the predominantly Nationalist Garvaghy Road in Portadown, County Armagh. Trimble and Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Ian Paisley were filmed walking hand-in-hand as the march proceeded down the road, in a controversial march that has been banned since 1997. This has been labelled the Drumcree "Victory Jig" by some commentators who are quick to point out that while Trimble gained immediate credibility just before the leadership election he lost it longterm. Most recently the "Victory Jig" episode was cited as an example of Trimble "manipulating" the Orange Order "to get the leadership of the Ulster Unionist Party.

First Minister of Northern Ireland

Trimble at first opposed the appointment of former US Senator George J. Mitchell as the chairman of the multi-party talks which resulted in the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement (GFA) of 1998. Trimble was subsequently seen as instrumental in getting his party to accept the accord. Later in 1998, Trimble and John Hume were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Northern Ireland. Left wing commentator Eamon McCann described Trimble winning the Nobel Peace Prize as winning the lottery and not buying a ticket. Trimble was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly and subsequently became First Minister of Northern Ireland with Seamus Mallon as deputy First Minister. However arguments over the extent of Provisional Irish Republican Army decommissioning meant that Trimble's tenure as First Minister was repeatedly interrupted. In particular:

  • The office of First Minister was suspended from 11 February 2000 to 30 May 2000.
  • Trimble resigned as First Minister on 1 July 2001, but was re-elected on 5 November 2001.
  • The Assembly was suspended from 14 October 2002 until 2007 due to accusations of an IRA spy ring being operated there (the so-called Stormontgate Affair).

At the general elections of 2005, David Trimble failed in his bid for re-election to Parliament in Westminster when he was defeated by the Democratic Unionist Party's David Simpson. The Ulster Unionist Party retained only one seat in Parliament (out of eighteen in Northern Ireland) after the 2005 General Election, and David Trimble resigned as leader of the party on 7 May 2005.

On 11 April 2006, it was announced that Trimble would take a seat in the House of Lords as a working life peer. On 21 May 2006 it was announced that he had chosen the geographical designation Lisnagarvey, the original name for his adopted home town of Lisburn and on 2 June 2006 he was created Baron Trimble, of Lisnagarvey in the County of Antrim.

On 18 December 2006, he announced that he would be standing down from the Northern Ireland Assembly at the next election.

On 17 April 2007, Trimble announced that he had decided to join the Conservative Party in order to have greater influence in politics at a United Kingdom-wide level. At the same time, however, he stated that he did not intend to campaign against the Ulster Unionist Party, and proposed the idea of a future alliance between the Conservatives and the Ulster Unionists, similar to that which had existed prior to 1974 and the fallout of the Sunningdale Agreement. It has been reported that if the Conservatives win the next general election, Trimble will receive a "significant" ministerial role, possibly in the Cabinet.


Trimble has expressed his admiration for Elvis Presley and, on 14 August 2007, he presented a special edition of BBC Radio 4's "Great Lives" to mark the 30th anniversary of Presley's death. Trimble concluded,
If you look at where popular culture was in 1955, the way in which he changed it, the way in which he developed it, there are many people in the music business who have only achieved a tenth, not even that, of what Elvis achieved.

Personal life

He is married to his former student, Daphne Orr, and they have four children. He had no children from his first marriage, which ended in divorce.

Notes and references

See also

External links

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