David Trimble wanted a better future for his children, says close aide

One of David Trimble’s closest aides says his relentless determination for the Good Friday Agreement was fueled by his desire to see a better future for his four children.

The avid Campbell, who hesitated to support the former hardliner in the 1995 Ulster Unionist Party leadership race, said Lord Trimble had become firm in his desire for peace and often told him he did it for the sake of his children.

“David had a young family when he took over the reins of the Unionist Party in 1995 when he painted a leadership picture that pointed to a different Northern Ireland.

“He just wasn’t prepared for his children and all other children to grow up in the same environment as him,” said Mr. Campbell, who is now chairman of the Loyalist Communities Council representing the UDA, UVF and Red Commando. Arms.

“I don’t think any other trade union leader could make such an agreement. It just took someone like David to do it.”

Lord Trimble will be buried tomorrow after a memorial service at Harmony Hill Presbyterian Church in Lisburn. Among those scheduled to attend are Irish President Michael D. Higgins, Taoiseach Michael Martin, Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill and Mary Lou MacDonald, Ulster Unionist and DUP leaders, and other local political leaders.

Despite being a close family friend, Mr Campbell said he had not decided whether to vote for Mr Trimble or John Taylor in September 1995 at Ulster Hall, where Reverends Martin Smith, Willie Ross and Ken Maginnis also competed for Unionist leadership.

Mr Taylor was the favorite to triumph, but Mr Campbell said: “David’s perfect speech won over many doubters. And coming so soon after Drumcree propelled David to prominence, I think he got 95 percent of the Orange delegates who were an important part of the party at the time.”

After winning the UUP leadership race in 1995, Mr. Trimble asked Mr. Campbell to be one of the UUP negotiators in George Mitchell’s cross-party peace talks, and when the deal was done, he invited him to be his chief of staff and senior political officer. adviser. .

“He knew that I shared the doubts about the release of prisoners and decommissioning, which were a big risk that David was taking, and for me were concessions that Sinn Féin did not deserve.

“I think he appointed me because he knew I didn’t go along. I never imagined the rollercoaster ahead, but I wouldn’t miss it for anything. David was amazing to work for and allowed people like me to be part of history. I was still close to him after he lost his seat at Westminster in 2005, and we have recently opposed the Protocol, which he believes was a betrayal of the union movement and a violation of the Good Friday Agreement.”

Mr Campbell, who was chairman of the Ulster Unionist Party between 2005 and 2012, spoke of his shock at Lord Trimble’s sudden death last week. “We all knew he was very sick, but we didn’t know how fast it would happen. We agreed to have a snack, but, unfortunately, this did not happen.

The former Upper Bann MP was last seen in public at the unveiling of his portrait of Colin Davidson at Queen’s University Belfast late last month, and it was the first time many people learned how frail he was.

It is understandable that Lord Trimble’s wife Daphne, even on the opening day, was not sure that he was healthy enough to attend the event.

Mr Campbell said he thought if David Trimble and Mark Durkan of the SDLP could continue their roles as First and Deputy First Ministers after the collapse of Stormont in 2002, Northern Ireland could be a better place.

He visited Lord Trimble’s family, who he said were in shock, and he believes his enduring legacy will be the Good Friday Agreement and its “anchoring of democracy and harmony at the heart of everything that happens in Northern Ireland”.

“Therefore, the primacy of this part of the Agreement is restored in the middle of the Protocol, and I think that it will be so,” he added.

“But for me, David’s shared legacy is the belief that nothing is impossible. No one would have thought that when they saw the release of Drumcree from 1996 to 1998, this man would agree to a peace deal that would end 30 terrible years of violence.

“His legacy is the Northern Ireland we see today, Northern Ireland indistinguishable from the one we knew.

“Obviously there were other people in charge, but David sacrificed his position and that of his party to make this happen.”