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20 May 1999 Edition

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The trouble with Trimble

Why did David Trimble sign up for the Good Friday Agreement? Even as the Agreement was signed, Trimble and the other Ulster Unionist negotiators were trying to gain support for their own additional conditions.

Since then we have seen Trimble decide not only to stall on fulfilling the Agreements he made but also actively seeking to change them. Recounting the record of stalling and backtracking by Trimble over the last year has become repetitive and boring.

The question is why did you bother David? Why bother to agree to support something when every action you have taken has been clearly to the contrary?

The sad answer is that the Ulster Unionists were comfortable with the status quo that existed in Ireland before the IRA cessation. They didn't mind being the political leaders of a people virtually without power once the symbols of the British state were maintained.

The Ulster Unionists never sought consensus with nationalists. They actively practised discrimination in the few arenas they still had a say. At the same time, they consistently encouraged the erosion of civil rights and the construction of a war economy and a militarised police state.

This was an acceptable price to pay to comfort themselves that the Six Counties was still under British jurisdiction. Everything was sacrificed in the pursuit of one more day of the union, no matter how shoddy or meaningless that union was.

Is this the future that David Trimble wants for the unionist people in Ireland? Does he want them to continue to live in a political limbo, mired in powerlessness and hopelessness?

In Trimble's Nobel Prize-winning speech he talked of the ``politics of the possible - politicians who seek to make a working peace''. He says that this is a powerful role model for the pluralist Irishman. Trimble has singularly failed to live up to this role. The trouble with Trimble is that he doesn't even believe his own propaganda.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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