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Sunday, 1 July, 2001, 10:21 GMT 11:21 UK
Trimble plays the waiting game
David Trimble resigns
David Trimble resigns after three years as first minister
In the wake of David Trimble's resignation as first minister, BBC NI political correspondent Mark Simpson assesses the mood of the Ulster Unionist leader.

After exactly three years as first minister, David Trimble's patience has finally snapped.

He is known to have a short fuse, and like most Northern Ireland politicians, is not afraid to raise his voice.

What is more, he often gives the impression of a man in a hurry.

On the morning in May when he announced that he intended resigning, he was seen sprinting down a corridor at Stormont in a last-minute rush to inform the Deputy First Minister, Seamus Mallon, about his decision.

So was this a hurried, impetuous decision?


Mark Simspon: "Mr Trimble sees light at the end of the tunnel"

A knee-jerk reaction from a man under pressure? Apparently not.

The decision to resign had in fact been taken two months previously, during a private conversation with a close colleague during a trip to the United States.

Mr Trimble made up his mind there and then that if there was no decommissioning by the end of June, he would leave office.

This, he calculated, would leave the IRA and Sinn Fein with a straight choice - devolution or decommissioning.

Boiling tempers

It may have been a cool and calm decision, but Mr Trimble's mood in recent days has been less than serene.

During last week's negotiations at Hillsborough Castle, he struggled to keep his composure when confronted with questions about the exact implications of his resignation.

His face became redder, the volume in his tone increased and so did the finger-wagging.

He is not the first politician to get hot under the collar during the recent negotiations - and he will not be the last.

The list of politicians who have been grumpy with the media in the past month reads like a 'who's who' of Northern Ireland politics.

Ian Paisley, John Hume, Seamus Mallon, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness have all had spats with interviewers.

It is part of everyday life in the world of politics.

For Mr Trimble, being first minister used to be part of everyday life, but not any more.

He was elected to the post on 1 July 1998; he resigned on 1 July 2001.

Light at the end of the tunnel?

It all started three years ago with a smile and a handshake between him and Seamus Mallon on a glorious summer's afternoon.

It ended in darkness at midnight on Saturday.

Mr Trimble still sees a light at the end of the tunnel - the possibility that the IRA will soon start to decommission.

After three years rushing around, he is now sitting back and waiting.

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See also:

08 May 01 | Northern Ireland
Trimble threatens to resign
30 Jun 01 | Northern Ireland
Sir Reg Empey: A profile
28 Jun 01 | Northern Ireland
Arms deadline coincides with political crisis
29 Jun 01 | Northern Ireland
Testing the Trimble power vacuum
28 Jun 01 | Northern Ireland
Blair determined to find NI deal
28 Jun 01 | Northern Ireland
Trimble warns of assembly collapse
24 Jun 01 | Northern Ireland
IRA urged to move on arms
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