Northern Ireland’s Nobel Peace Prize winner David Trimble is dead. The former Northern Ireland leader, one of the architects of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, “passed away peacefully after a short illness” at the age of 77, his pro-British Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) said on Monday .
Trimble shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998 with Catholic politician John Hume for his efforts to resolve the Northern Ireland conflict.
Along with Hume of the majority Catholic Social Democratic and Labor Party (SDLP), he helped negotiate the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that ended decades of bloody Northern Ireland conflict.
Against internal resistance, he campaigned for a compromise with the Catholic-Republican side. Trimble was the first UUP leader in 30 years to meet with the then Irish Prime Minister in Dublin as part of the peace process.
In 1998 he became head of government for the British province of Northern Ireland. He later sat in the British House of Commons in London and from 2006 in the British House of Lords.
Outgoing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised Trimble as “a giant of British and international politics”. Trimble “will long be remembered for his intellect, personal courage and fierce determination to change politics for the better,” Johnson wrote on Twitter.
Ireland’s Prime Minister Michael Martin hailed Trimble’s “decisive and courageous role in bringing peace to Northern Ireland”. Michelle O’Neill of the Sinn Fein party, which is to be Northern Ireland’s next leader, said Trimble had made a “very significant contribution to the peace process”.
Irish ex-Prime Minister Bertie Ahern paid tribute to Trimble. Ahern said he led the way in difficult times.
The Good Friday Agreement of 1998 ended the 30-year conflict in Northern Ireland. Around 3,500 people were killed in the violence between Irish Catholic nationalists, who wanted a union with Ireland, and Protestant loyalists.
The Good Friday Agreement ensures smooth exchanges between the north and south of the island, in addition to the division of power between Protestants and Catholics.
Trimble passed away at a time of renewed tension in Northern Ireland. The reason is the dispute over the Northern Ireland Protocol. This is part of the agreement between Brussels and London on the EU exit and is intended to regulate customs controls on the exchange of goods between Northern Ireland and the rest of Great Britain.
London originally approved the protocol to prevent controls at the inner-Irish border, as this could endanger the peace process in the former troubled region. Now, however, the British government wants to abolish most controls between Northern Ireland and Great Britain and exempt British traders for goods to Northern Ireland from the obligation to make EU customs declarations.
London argues that the Northern Ireland Protocol undermines peace in the region by blocking government there. The pro-British DUP party has been opposing the formation of a government in Northern Ireland led by Sinn Fein for weeks and is calling for the Protocol to be abolished. Trimble’s UUP, which has fallen behind the DUP in importance, is also in favor of abolishing the protocol.