The Ulster Unionist Party leader described the Republic as a state with limited reasons for existence.
“If you took away Catholicism and anti-Britishness, the state doesn’t have a reason to exist,” Trimble told the editorial board of the Chicago Sun Times newspaper in a meeting last Thursday.
He added that the Irish state’s institutions were themselves British and American.
The paper reported the comments of the North’s former first minister and 1998 Nobel Peace Prize Winner in a story the following day.
Reaction from Ireland was swift, though the government in Dublin confined itself to a stiff no comment.
North of the border, the SDLP leader, Mark Durkan, the former deputy first minister, was more openly critical. He described Trimble’s remarks as “sectarian rambling.”
Durkan was not impressed by Trimble’s complaint that the remarks had been taken out of context.
It was, he said, “very hard to see in what a context those remarks could be deemed worthy or warranted in the first place.”
“This is not the first time that Mr. Trimble has come out with remarks like this,” Durkan said. “I just wish I could believe it would be the last time.”
“I don’t think it pays any of us to get involved in that kind of invective. This is the sort of stuff which David Trimble will say is pointed analysis. It isn’t. It’s puffed up sectarian ramblings and most of us see it for that.”
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams was also angered. He described Trimble’s remarks as “gratuitous, insulting, unnecessary.”
Trimble would have been better staying at home and sorting out the problems in the peace process, Adams said.