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Tuesday, May 19, 1998 Published at 18:32 GMT 19:32 UK


Profile - David Trimble

David Trimble has defied hardline unionists to support the Good Friday Agreement.

By BBC News online's Gary Duffy

David Trimble was the surprise winner in the race for the leadership of the Ulster Unionist Party in 1995.

There was little support for him from his parliamentary colleagues, but the party rank and file clearly thought differently.

In part the success was explained by his high-profile role during a stand-off in Drumcree between members of the Protestant Orange Order and local Catholic residents.

When Orange Order marchers were able to follow their preferred route, despite the objections of people in the area, Mr Trimble was at the head of the parade, alongside his fellow unionist leader Ian Paisley.

His election was also an indication that rank and file unionists were unhappy with the government's vision of the future for Northern Ireland, set out in the so-called Framework Documents, and wanted to see firm leadership at the top of their party.

A veteran of Northern Ireland politics, Mr Trimble was involved in the hardline Vanguard Party led by William Craig in the early 1970s.

In 1978 he entered mainstream unionism and joined the Ulster Unionist Party, and in 1990 he was elected as MP for Upper Bann.

Soon after he was elected party leader, Mr Trimble showed he was prepared to upset some of the unionist rank and file by meeting with the main party leaders in the Irish Republic.

A former lecturer in law at Queen's University, he needed all his negotiating skills for the multi-party talks which concluded with the Good Friday Agreement this year.

He gave his backing to the deal despite the opposition of more than half his parliamentary colleagues, but later won support for his approach from the party rank and file.

Mr Trimble has been tipped as a potential First Minister in a new Northern Ireland assembly, but it is possible he would leave the role to another colleague.

Whatever the future holds, the Ulster Unionist leader must deal with an agreement that has split his party badly.



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In this section

Key events since the Good Friday Agreement

Splinter groups threaten peace

Punishment beatings: A grip of fear

LVF link to Red Hand terrorists

The long search for peace

Two centuries of tradition

Inside the Orange Order

Continuity IRA - the struggle goes on?

Northern Ireland facts and figures

A fond farewell to Northern Ireland

The Good Friday Agreement in full