Former first minister of Northern Ireland and Nobel Peace Prize winner David Trimble has been remembered as “a political giant” following his death aged 77.
The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), which Mr Trimble led between 1995 and 2005, issued a statement on behalf of his family on Monday evening. “It is with great sadness that the family of Lord Trimble announce that he passed away peacefully earlier today following a short illness,” it read.
Mr Trimble played a central role in the Belfast Agreement negotiations and was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with former SDLP leader John Hume for their achievements in brokering the historic peace deal.
As the first person to serve in the role of first minister, he was in post from 1998 to 2002.
Born in Bangor, Co Down, in 1944, Mr Trimble was a distinguished academic in the law faculty at Queen’s University Belfast before entering politics in the 1970s.
Before joining the UUP in 1978, he was involved in the unionist offshoot organisation, Vanguard.
Television pictures of him triumphantly joining hands with Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Ian Paisley as he led an Orange Order parade along the nationalist Garvaghy Road during the Drumcree dispute in 1995 characterised him as hardliner before his transformation into a more moderate statesman.
President Michael D Higgins was among the many political figures paying tribute to Mr Trimble on Monday night, saying he would be remembered for his “most significant contribution to the work for peace on our island”.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin similarly praised Mr Trimble’s “central contribution in setting us on the path to peace and reconciliation”.
In 2005 Mr Trimble lost his seat in the House of Commons, but was granted a peerage in the upper House of Lords, where he switched allegiance to the Conservative Party in 2006.
Doug Beattie, the current UUP leader, described him as “a political giant, a courageous politician, a staunch unionist and a friend”.
DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson, a former member of the UUP, remembered him as a politician who “can undoubtedly be said to have shaped history in our country”.
He added: “Throughout some of the most difficult years of the Troubles, David was a committed and passionate advocate for the union, at a time when doing so placed a considerable threat to his safety. Whilst our political paths parted within the Ulster Unionist Party, there can be no doubting his bravery and determination in leadership at that time.”
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said Mr Trimble’s “contribution to building the peace process in Ireland will stand as a proud and living legacy of his political life”.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said Mr Trimble “demonstrated immense courage” during the Belfast Agreement negotiations, adding that “without David Trimble’s fortitude, there would simply have been no agreement”.
Mr Trimble’s final public appearance came at the end of June at the unveiling of a portrait of him by artist Colin Davidson at Queen’s University.
Mr Trimble is survived by his wife, Daphne, and sons and daughters, Richard, Victoria, Nicholas and Sarah.