Category: Archive

Trimble: Dress Rehearsal For The Final Curtain

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Now, with his move to suspend three rebel MPS from the party declared illegal by the Belfast High Court, and facing a vote of no confidence within his own constituency party, it seems that if the fat lady hasn?t yet sung, she seems to be holding a dress rehearsal.
Trimble, who survived a move against his policies at a meeting of the Ulster Unionist Council just three weeks ago, is confronting what could be an even greater challenge. The High Court ruling overturning the attempt to suspend dissidents Jeffrey Donaldson, David Burnside and the Rev. Martin Smyth, is a bad blow to his prestige, not only as a leader but also as a lawyer and legal expert. It has undoubtedly strengthened the resolve of his anti-agreement colleagues who are determined to undermine him and reverse the party?s (albeit grudging) acceptance of the Good Friday Agreement and the Joint Declaration of the British and Irish governments, which outlines the final stages of the implementation of that agreement.
In all likelihood, we are witnessing the demise of another Unionist leader who tried to lead his party in the direction of moderation, tolerance, and the acceptance of change. No doubt many nationalists would shake their heads at this characterization, as they did at the efforts of Captain Terence O?Neill and Brian Faulkner, two of Trimble?s predecessors who also tried to bring the Unionist Party into the real world of compromise and accommodation, and paid the price. Trimble, say his critics, did not wholeheartedly sell the Good Friday Agreement to his own party, and by doing so gave his enemies the ammunition to try and bring him down. He sowed distrust, by his constant threats to close down the government. There is some truth in this, no doubt. But he must be credited with the fact that he convinced the UUP to go into government with the political wing of the IRA ? an astounding breakthrough, given the history of Northern Ireland. Remember, it was not so long ago that O?Neill was pilloried for talking to nuns, and Faulkner crucified for sharing power with John Hume.
No other party leader in Northern Ireland, neither in the SDLP nor in Sinn Fein, has had to confront such an onslaught against his position.
Nationalists will find that if Trimble does take a bow, and leave the stage, the acts that may follow him will not be to their liking. Sinn Fein?s Mitchel McLaughlin seems to have realized this when at in a recent speech in Dublin he said that Nationalists will have to cut Trimble some slack. It might be too late. Already the Rev. Ian Paisley is roaring in the wings, dismissing any hope of his party going into government with Sinn Fein. There are in fact DUP stalwarts who would not countenance government with the SDLP. If this is the only alternative being offered as leadership in the Protestant community then the peace process faces dire days ahead.

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