David Trimble, the former First Minister of Northern Ireland who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his key role in ending decades of violence, has died, the Ulster Unionist Party announced on Monday. He was 77.
A party statement on behalf of the Trimble family said the union politician had passed away earlier Monday “after a short illness.”
Trimble, who led the UUP from 1995 to 2005, was a key architect of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that ended three decades of violent conflict in Northern Ireland known as “The Troubles”.
Keir Starmer, leader of Britain’s opposition Labor Party, called Trimble “a prominent figure in Northern Ireland and British politics” in a tweet on Monday.
The UUP was the largest Protestant trade union party in Northern Ireland when it was led by Trimble, it agreed to the Good Friday Peace Agreement.
He was the first leader of the party in 30 years to meet with the Prime Minister of Ireland in Dublin. In 1997, Trimble became the first union leader to negotiate with the Irish Republican Party Sinn Féin.
Trimble shared the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize with moderate Catholic leader John Hume, head of the Social Democratic and Labor Party, for their work. Hume died in August 2020.
In the same year he became First Minister in Northern Ireland’s first power-sharing government and Seamus Mallon of the SDLP became Deputy First Minister.
But both the UUP and the SDLP soon saw themselves eclipsed by the more hardline parties of the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin.
Trimble struggled to keep his party together as the power-sharing government was rocked by disagreements over disarming the IRA and other paramilitary groups.
Senior peers defected to the DUP, Trimble lost his seat in the British Parliament in 2005 and resigned as party leader shortly thereafter. The following year he was appointed to the upper house of Parliament, the House of Lords.
Northern Ireland’s power-sharing has since gone through many crises, but the peace settlement has largely survived.
“The Good Friday Agreement is something everyone in Northern Ireland agreed on,” Trimble said earlier this year. “That doesn’t mean they agree with everything. There are aspects that some people considered a mistake, but the main thing is that it was agreed upon.”