Trimble and Mallon criticise Stormont Executive at DCU conferring

Former NI leaders awarde honorary doctorates by Dublin university

David Trimble and Seamus Mallon pictured with Professor Brian MacCraith, President of DCU at the Helix, DCU this afternoon. Photograph: Colin Keegan/ Collins

David Trimble and Seamus Mallon pictured with Professor Brian MacCraith, President of DCU at the Helix, DCU this afternoon. Photograph: Colin Keegan/ Collins


Northern Ireland’s former Deputy First Minister Séamus Mallon has criticised the current Stormont Executive.

“Every single important issue that has cropped up they have walked away from it,” he said today.

“The most recent one was the Maze, then there is the whole question of education. It’s time the Executive exercised its role and did what political leaders should do and not run away from issues.” Spaeking in Dublin he said “the reality is Northern Ireland could become apolitical because that leadership is not there.”

Former Northern Ireland First Minister David Trimble added, however, that “the differences (today) are of a different order to what they were 15years ago (at the time of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998)” but that, ultimately, they would have to be resolved locally.

Both men were speaking at Dublin City University (DCU) where they had been conferred with honorary Doctorates of Philosophy for what they had achieved “through courage, dedication and a lifetime commitment to the service of others,” as DCU president Brian MacCraith put it.

DCU Chancellor Dr Martin McAleese said the decision to honour both men was “because we owe them a debt of gratitude for all they did to transcend theperverse, paralysing politics of the past and breathe new life, fresh momentum into the future...They took risks, argued the toss vehemently, made concessions and compromises, essentially, they made themselves vulnerable.”

In his address at the conferring ceremony Dr Trimble spoke of disenchantment in Northern Ireland just now. “the present administration is not delivering very much apart from its existence, which is important.” But, he commented, “even at their best things will not run smoothly.”

He was reminded of the words of philosopher Isaiah Berlin that “out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.” He had “no doubt a watershed point was passed 15 years ago and that is not going to be undone.”

In his address, Dr Mallon spoke of his pleasure at receiving the honour alongside Dr Trimble. Over 30 years “we saw at first hand the futility of violence, the awfulness of human suffering, and concerted attempts to tip Northern Ireland into outright civil war,” he said. To prevent that two things were essential “the political process had to be kept alive and, in the words of Martin Luther King jnr, we had “to hew out of the mountain of despair the precious stone of hope.”

He said, “I would like to pay personal tribute to David and Daphne Trimble. I saw the personal abuse they endured, the way they were treated badly by their own electorate. He is a brave man and she is a brave woman. That courage had never been fully recognised. I want to do so now”

Speaking afterwards former taoiseach Bertie Ahern described said Dr Trimble and Dr Mallon were “both brave men”. He recalled how a week before the Good Friday Agreement a poll in the Belfast Telegraph found that five per cent believed a settlement was possible.

He attended an EU-related summit in London about the same time, and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair asked “do you think there is any point in going over (to Belfast)?” Asked about difficulties he and David Trimble had at the time, he laughed them off, saying “David, Daphne and I are really good friends.”

Among those at the ceremony were SDLP leader Alastair McDonnell, chairman of the Convention on the Constitution Tom Arnold, Department of Foreign Affairs secretary general David Cooney, former Fianna Fail Ministers Dermot Ahern and Rory O’Hanlon, former SDLP MPs Joe Hendron and Seán Farren, former Government secretary Dermot McCarthy, former Garda Commissioners Pat Byrne, Fachtna Murphy, and Noel Conroy, former Government secretary Dermot McCarthy, former government officials Paddy Teahon, Michael Lillis, Noel Fahy, Tim O’Connor, and Maura Grant