David Trimble’s funeral brings together politicians from all walks of life

David Trimble’s funeral brings together politicians from all walks of life

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David Trimble faced fierce opposition from across the political spectrum throughout his life, but his funeral has brought together British, Irish and Northern Ireland leaders to pay tribute to his achievements and sacrifices.

Monday’s Lisburn service brought together British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other political leaders from London, Dublin and Belfast to bid a farewell to Northern Ireland’s First Minister.

It was a rare gathering and show of solidarity – and a truce given the current political tensions – to honor Lord Trimble, an architect of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), who died last week aged 77.

Ireland’s President Michael D. Higgins and Taoiseach Micheál Martin joined Northern Ireland’s party leaders at Harmony Hill Presbyterian Church, a name both apt and ironic given Trimble’s heyday as a peacemaker.

Trimble shared the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize with John Hume, then leader of the Social Democratic and Labor Party (SDLP), but was labeled a traitor by many union colleagues and faced death threats.

Funeral of David Trimble

Mourners hear tributes to Lord Trimble’s “considerable strength of character” at service. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA

Ireland’s Tricolor flew at half-mast over the Irish Parliament in Dublin as a mark of respect for his role in ending the troubles while striving to secure Northern Ireland’s place in the UK.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Trimble had shown tremendous courage in leading trade unionists into a new era despite deep concerns. “Ultimately, that’s what leadership is,” he told the BBC.

Mourners heard personal stories about Trimble’s childhood at Bangor Grammar School in the 1960s, his career as a law professor at Queen’s University Belfast and how he overcame his shyness to become a transformative leader of the UUP from 1995-2005.

Rev. Fiona Forbes said people came to remember an academic, a Nobel laureate, a husband, a father and a grandfather. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God,” she said.

Charles McMullen, a former moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, told the mourners, “His heritage shed its light on him.” The reward is a changed political landscape that has allowed a generation to grow up in relative peace, he said.

“History will be extraordinarily kind to David, even though life has brought many unrelenting burdens and demands. Along with others, he has met seemingly impossible challenges with considerable strength of character, intellectual acumen and absolute integrity,” said McMullen.

The meeting of Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Féin’s first minister-elect, Jeffrey Donaldson of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Doug Beattie of the UUP, Stephen Farry of the Alliance and Colum Eastwood of the SDLP was likely a brief respite after the Brexit disputes that have poisoned Northern Ireland politics and paralyzed power-sharing institutions at Stormont.

Northern Ireland Minister Shailesh Vara, his Labor colleague Peter Kyle, former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, who struck up a friendship with Trimble during the Good Friday negotiations, also attended.

Former US President Bill Clinton said last week that Trimble’s legacy will live on “with all those who live better lives because of him.”

Commentators said it feels like the end of an era following the deaths over the past decade of Martin McGuinness, Ian Paisley, Seamus Mallon and Hume – other key figures in consolidating the Good Friday Agreement.

Trimble is survived by his widow, Daphne, and their two daughters and two sons.

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