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Saturday, 9 June, 2001, 18:31 GMT 19:31 UK
What next for David Trimble?
Unionists opposed to the Good Friday Agreement have made significant gains in the general election, and the peace process is once more under pressure.
Mr Trimble said last month that he would resign in July as first minister of the Northern Ireland assembly if no progress was made on IRA arms decommissioning.
The Ulster Unionist leader has also been under huge electoral pressure on decommissioning from Dr Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist party, who won three seats held by Mr Trimble's party.
Where do today's results leave the future of the peace process and David Trimble?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
When I was born there was not a single Nationalist/Republican MP representing Northern Ireland. Now 34 years later there are seven. This is the real issue that Unionism has to deal with. Unionism has to reach a reconciliation with its fellow country men. If it isn't going to be Trimble and the Belfast Agreement, who is going to represent them and what will the basis be for the reconciliation? I can't imagine the Ballymena Windbag being of much help...
Paul McK, Staines, UK
Why doesn't Mr Trimble do the honourable thing, as Mr Hague did, and resign forthwith? We all know the UUP is going to get trenched in the local government elections too and it would be better for Mr Trimble to go before he is pushed (pushed very hard).
David Trimble should think long and hard about what is to be gained by IRA arms decommissioning and what is to be lost by resigning. If all the guns were handed in and destroyed, it would leave us no more secure than before. If the IRA felt the need to re-arm, securing new supplies would not be a problem. Democracy and the democratic process is the unfamiliar close-combat which Sinn Fein /IRA are unused to. They must be constantly engaged in this process, kept under pressure, held to account, and not allowed to slip back to their old familiar ways.
David Trimble and his party appear to be at odds regarding the agreement. From a distance, it appears to me that a realignment within unionism may have to take place before any further progress can be made, as it seems unlikely that any meaningful intercourse with the other community can take place with the unionists so divided.
Kevin suggests that a realignment within unionism may have to take place before any further progress is made. My suggestion is why stop at Unionism? Why not a realignment of the main Pro-Agreement parties? It seems to me that David Trimble is the natural choice of leader for a New Alliance Party formed from the Alliance, SDLP and UUP. This is the kind of future that younger people within the SDLP like Alex Attwood should be thinking of, and the kind of party that would reflect the views of vast majority of the people.
Brian McKay's suggestion is possibly the most valuable and bright idea I've heard about the situation here. A party like that would really be the future of Northern Ireland. I am 17, and did not get a chance to vote this year, but I was completely disenchanted by anti-agreement parties gaining seats, it signals the beginning of a period of refusal to move forward. I wouldn't blame anybody elsewhere in the UK from wanting rid of Northern Ireland, look at the state of the place, and remember the south of Ireland vote at the referendum in which around 90 per cent of people there voted to relinquish their traditional claim on Northern Ireland, that's what most people think of the place!
Matt Johnston, Bangor, County Down
The UUP share of the vote is actually up compared to the Assembly election - and they secured a majority of the unionist vote. More worrying is that the SDLP lost massively to the extremist SF. The SDLP need to take on Sinn Fein in the same courageous and energetic way that David Trimble is taking on the DUP.
It seems clear now that both the SDLP and the UUP need to stand up against the extremist parties. Well done to David Trimble for being so brave in his acceptance speech. Now John Hume and Seamus Mallon should show similar bravery. Peace and reconciliation amongst the people of Northern Ireland depends on the more moderate parties. I, for one, wish both the SDLP and the UUP well in this difficult, but absolutely necessary task.
Unionists need to be more realistic, stop trying to get every thing their own way. The trouble with certain elements with unionism is that in the past they have been too used to getting their own way. They should stop giving David Trimble such a hard time. Nationalists are gaining in strength and if David Trimble goes then will the next leader of the UUP be called a traitor for talking to republicans or do we go back to the way it was?
The DUP are busy crowing about their performance in the general election. They seem to forget that Sinn Fein polled almost as many votes. The question therefore arises as to how you manage a society where such diverse views are held. The DUP answer is simple - Ignore the nationalists. At least David Trimble is trying to come to grips with these diverse views.
An oft-quoted statistic is that 30 years of conflict has cost us 3,200 lives. Those who criticise David Trimble might do well to remember that people are alive today who might otherwise not be, thanks to the past four years of peace, and David Trimble's efforts to secure it. Few politicians ever need to go eyeball to eyeball with their enemies in a peace process, fewer still would have the courage to do so. The DUP certainly don't have the bottle and never will. They are all talk and no trousers.
Well done the DUP. It's time to put the brakes on Trimble and his merry men. No politician in his right mind would consider dialogue with known terrorists and killers. The DUP will guarantee the safety of the people of Northern Ireland by the ballot box and not the bullet. Trimble has turned his back on all things decent and honourable.
John P Hodge, Acme, Canada
DUP unionists are in a 1950s time warp. Unionists have a choice, Peace (agreement) or War (the troubles revisited). If unionists ditch the agreement, Blair should hold a referendum as to whether or not the British people wish to continue taking responsibility for Northern Ireland. Care to bet on the result? A union is made of two partners and can end in messy divorce. Get real.
The UUP vote has increased relative to the most recent previous election, for the Assembly. That does not sound like disaster to me. The results in this election are due to a split vote among pro-agreement parties and a lack of tactical voting. I predict that some pro-agreement voters will start voting tactically across traditional sectarian lines at the next election to keep out the DUP. If that happens it will be a sign that reconciliation has truly arrived at last.
The very idea that fellow citizens in mainland UK should have the right to vote to deny their fellow citizens British citizenship is disgraceful. People of Northern Ireland are British as of right. They have fought alongside their English, Scottish and Welsh counterparts to keep the UK a free country. Just because the unionist community will not bow to IRA terrorists and just because they will not be beaten, bombed and maimed into submission, is no reason for fellow British citizens to disown them.
The Unionist people have had their say, the time has come for Trimble to resign, he does not have the support of his own party, never mind the people. The UUP is now part of the pan-nationalist front. In the past 3 years IRA/Sinn Fein have gained more from Mr Trimble than they had done from 30 years of bombing. The DUP is the only party able to represent the Unionist people.
David Trimble has been too cagey by far. Instead of leading his party toward full implementation of the Good Friday agreement, he has delayed and impeded it. He has used the threat of resigning once too often. Now it is coming back to bite him on the ass.
The blame for the DUP's rise lies solely with Sinn Fein/IRA. Had they honoured their obligations honestly then the DUP would be staring at meltdown at the minute. Trimble has shown courage and honour so far. It's time for Sinn Fein to do the same.
Ryan, Ballymena, Northern Ireland
It is now time for Trimble to go. Appeasing terrorists, destroying the RUC putting gangsters into government has been his legacy. Enough is enough we can take no more. The articulate brand of unionism displayed by the DUP has been widely welcomed within unionism and the mandate we have given them must be listened to. It is not courageous to give in to terrorists. All prisoners have been released no weapons have been decommissioned.
Trimble has done a good job but it is now time to step back and realise that he has gone off in a tangent from the rest his party and the people of Northern Ireland. It's time to change the story and deal with the decommissioning and policing issues instead of hiding behind the deadline shield.
At first glance things look bad for David Trimble, and the Agreement but this is not so: UUP 26.8 per cent; DUP 22.5 per cent; Sinn Fein 21.7 per cent; SDLP 21.0 per cent. I make this 69.5 per cent Pro Agreement against 22.5 per cent Anti Agreement. David Trimble has proved to be a courageous leader with a vision for the future. Paisley and the DUP can rant and rave all they like. The fact is they have no realistic notion of how to end conflict and secure peace, which at the end of the day, is what the people want.
John Campbell, Reading, UK
Actually the results are worse than they look for David Trimble. He now has six MPs - in 1997 he had 10. Of the six only two are clearly pro-Agreement. The UUP fought 17 seats the DUP only fought 14. Of the 13 they fought the DUP returned five MPs the UUP four. In three of the UUP seats there is a small majority (100, 1000, 2000). The DUP were ahead of the UUP in eight and behind in five. In these 13 seats the DUP won a total of 20,000 more votes than the UUP.
Pro agreement parties won 13 of the 18 seats available. It is too simplistic to simply look at the possibility of growing discontent among the Protestant community. The Northern Ireland Assembly is a legislative body formulated to represent all residents of Northern Ireland, with the main aim of removing sectarian politics from this troubled province. If we allow the anti agreement factions to triumph now, even if we sympathise with some of their grievances, would be to deny the people of Northern Ireland the future that they deserve.
Trimble has done a good job but it is now time to step back and realize that he went off in a tangent from the rest his party and the people of NI. It's time to change the story and deal with the decommissioning and policing issues instead of hiding behind the deadline shield!
The clear blame for the demise of the Belfast agreement lies at the feet of the SDLP. David Trimble has made concession after concession to the nationalists, taking the courageous route of breaking ranks with fellow Unionists, and sacrificing short-term electoral support, for the hope of long-term reconciliation.
On the other side, Hume and Mallon have taken the coward's route, failing to stand up at all to Sinn Fein for fear of losing electoral support among the nationalist community. However, their strategy backfired, legitimising an unreconstructed, armed Sinn Fein and driving outraged Unionists into the arms of the DUP.
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