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'Bravery, vision and commitment': Brandon Lewis MP pays tribute to Lord Trimble

3 min read

It was with great sadness that I learnt this week of the death of David Trimble.

He was a giant of our domestic and international politics. He was a brilliant statesman and a dedicated public servant, committed to serving the people and communities of Northern Ireland during his 32-year-long career in Parliament.

Entering the House of Commons in 1990 and later serving as leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, he became First Minister in Northern Ireland in 1998 following the signing of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.

The people of the whole of the United Kingdom owe him an immense debt of gratitude for all he achieved for our union

He will be remembered for his tireless efforts to change politics and the political landscape in Northern Ireland, and across the rest of the UK, for the better. Most importantly, his legacy as an architect of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, bringing peace and stability to Northern Ireland after the horrors of the decades of the Troubles, will live on forever. An astonishing achievement that changed the course of our history.

There is still more to do to address the legacy left by that dark period in our shared history. During my time as Northern Ireland secretary, I saw first hand how the legacy of the Troubles continues to affect people and communities across Northern Ireland. For many people, the pain of those years is as raw today as it was then. That is why I was proud to bring forward the Northern Ireland (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill earlier this year to deliver better outcomes for victims and survivors, ensuring they get more information, more quickly about what happened to their loved ones and finally provide the protection our veterans deserve.

But it is thanks to the vision and commitment of people such as David Trimble that there is now an entire generation of young people who have grown up in Northern Ireland knowing only peace. The Agreement remains the bedrock of peace and stability in the Province – unlocking the amazing talent and enterprise that exists across Northern Ireland is only possible thanks to the framework provided by the Agreement.

The vision of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement was for a Northern Ireland in which all communities can participate and work together. A place in which you have the opportunity to thrive no matter who you are, or where you come from. Today, Northern Ireland is a creative and technological powerhouse.

Nearly 25 years on, the Agreement is as relevant today as it was then. In his last few months, David was a passionate advocate for upholding its integrity in all of its dimensions, warning of the consequences of not acting to address the challenges raised by the current implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol and the long-term effect it could have on the sense of identity for Northern Ireland’s unionist communities.

David’s selfless leadership and relentless dedication that resulted in securing the Agreement led to him winning the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel organisation itself recognised him for his role as a "seeker of compromise" and applauded him for his "political bravery".

The people of the whole of the United Kingdom owe him an immense debt of gratitude for all he achieved for our union. With the bravery, vision and commitment he showed throughout his life, he will be greatly missed by all who knew and admired him.

Brandon Lewis is the Conservative MP for Great Yarmouth. He was Northern Ireland secretary from 2020 to 2022.

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