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Thursday, 14 June, 2001, 10:22 GMT 11:22 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 these results leave the peace process and David Trimble?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

The UUP and SDLP had the more difficult task in this election campaign in selling a process of change and compromise. The DUP and Sinn Fein campaign cries of No Surrender and Brits Out while both claiming credit for their success in Assembly ministries, unfortunately ignored the reality of the need for the centre ground to be the basis for any longer term settlement in Northern Ireland.
Ian McCormick, N Ireland

It's time for the DUP to get real

John Blair, Ireland
It's time for the DUP to get real. There will be a nationalist/ republican majority in 10/15 years. I have much respect for David Trimble who is prepared to compromise. The DUP will gain nothing with their 'not an inch' policies.
John Blair, Ireland

Whilst I generally agree with much of what Mr.Trimble has done, I do believe that he needs to resign. He cannot secure unification amongst his party nor the wider unionist community. Thus, if we are to challenge the rise of republicanism, it is time for him to resign. He needs to consider the greater good of his community.
Jules Reid, Northern Ireland

Most people want devolution in Ulster

Charlie Stevens, England, UK
Most people want devolution in Ulster. The only problem is that Trimble has allowed armed terrorists to enter the government along with the destruction of the RUC. Trimble can't keep blaming Blair. He has got to take responsibility for not having a bottom line - he should go. We have had enough lies and spin!
Charlie Stevens, England, UK

I wonder if Blair and his fellow Labour republicans would like to trade politics with an opposition who had an armed wing in the background? Would he be as quick to impose this so-called peace process on Ulster then - I don't think so.
Jim Millar, Essex

Alex Strickland is obviously lacking in Historical knowledge if he thinks that only people from the UK and Northern Ireland fought in both world wars as people from all over Ireland of both creeds fought and died. Not everybody who is a Catholic is an extremist. So meet us half way at least. David Trimble is arrogant and smug but he is the way forward for peace.
Sean, Belfast

The Good Friday Agreement was never fully explained to the Unionist people

James Brown, Romania
So where do we go to from here? Back to an IRA military campaign or try to make this agreement work? The Good Friday Agreement was never fully explained to the Unionist people and that they will have to live and work with Nationalists on an equal basis. Roll on the DUP and their time-warp politics and we're back in 1968 to start all over again.
James Brown, Romania

Britain and Ireland have put too many of their eggs in Trimble's basket. A strategy for ending a war based on a person is a castle built in the sand. Trimble has been too cute by half, and it's no wonder that people have grown tired of him and his slippery politics. Unionists don't trust him and Nationalists never will. The problem is that the peace process was built around him, and now people have to deal with the bigoted politics of the DUP. What did you expect, when much of the UUP has the same politics?
Thomas, USA

In the Agreement there is a requirement for support from the majority of Nationalists and Unionists. There is a massive majority of Nationalists for the Agreement but there is now a clear majority of Unionists who do not support the agreement. Trimble has threatened to resign but the pro-agreement parties will almost certainly find a way to fudge the issue of decommissioning. After all, putting arms beyond use is not proper decommissioning. Trimble has to go and Unionism needs to be united sooner rather than later.
Glenn Boyde, Northern Ireland, UK

Trimble should not resign

John Bennett, UK
Trimble should not resign. He should stop trying to appease the DUP, and insist that 'Loyalist' paramilitaries decommission too. Both sides are armed to the teeth. It's time for a level playing field.
John Bennett, UK

To hear it said that Trimble needs to step aside for a leader who can unite Northern Irish protestants is to revisit the battle-cry of every sectarian leader this province has ever had. If Trimble is to step aside it should be for a leader who can unite Northern Irish people.
Iain Macintosh, UK

Insisting on IRA decommissioning has been a disaster from the start. Unionists are simply looking for victory over the IRA, instead of trying to create a political settlement that will make arms redundant. The IRA has been on cease-fire for several years and all nationalists, including Sinn Fein and Dublin, have accepted partition. The "armed struggle" is over. Trimble needs to keep his nerve and press on. This is just a temporary setback. More DUP bigots in parliament will simply make it more and more obvious that they have nothing to offer other than a return to the violence and hatred of the past.
Philip O'Reilly, AL, USA

People who want a United Kingdom should all help in solving this problem, and not abandon them just because some terrorists want to stop the British people living in Northern Ireland to have a happy and peaceful life. I don't know what's the problem of this people - running for a seat but would not attend if they win! Pathetic!
Ib Balicanta, Manila, Philippines

The DUP will gain nothing for their electorate by not talking

Steph Hazz, USA
The very moment that the peace process was started (Adams/Hume/ Reynolds) was the death knoll for Unionist domination. They could never have it their way 100% of the time ever again. This was a good thing. Trimble has been literally caught in between "a rock and a hard place". For the record I think he has done well, The DUP will gain nothing for their electorate by not talking. They will only isolate themselves and the working class that they represent (generally speaking). Progress/time and pressure will not stand still for them.
Steph Hazz, USA

As a young person I can only shake my head in despair as I watch people being taken for a ride by Blair, Trimble and their cronies. It is a disgrace that Trimble has seen fit to sell out law-abiding citizens to the extent that he has - the sooner he quits and apologises - the better!
Stephen B, Northern Ireland

Change can be painful

Ken Brown, Carrickfergus, N. Ireland
The key word that all people in Northern Ireland must remember is change and change can be painful. Both the Republicans and Unionists need to face reality with a capital R. The British Government has now a large majority to do what it wants. If it feels there is going to be no progress they may pull the plug.
Ken Brown, Carrickfergus, N. Ireland

The true alarm from the General Election is not the DUP's gains but the rise in support for the IRA's party Sinn Fein. The DUP is on the verge of becoming the majority party of Unionists because the IRA will not disarm. Mr Trimble has not been met halfway and unless the supporters of peace in the Catholic community step forward and reject IRA/ Sinn Fein the hand of peace will be withdrawn and the path cleared for the DUP to gain a larger share of power in the next General Election.
Joe, Chicago, USA

All right Democratic Unionists, have it your way. Let's go back to the dark days of the troubles. At least you knew where you were then.
Jane, Wales, UK

If neither side is willing to compromise they will never get anywhere with this so-called Peace Process?
George Garratt, UK

The DUP now have the support of the majority of the Unionist people

Rodney Wiggins, Belfast (Northern Ireland)
For too long Trimble and the Ulster Unionist Party have misled the people of Ulster. The UUP need to wake up to the reality that the DUP now have the support of the majority of the Unionist people. Trimble must go and let a leader take control who can unite his party and unite the Protestant people against the enemy's of Ulster.
Rodney Wiggins, Belfast (Northern Ireland)

Its time Mr Trimble and the UUP realise that the Good Friday Agreement was one of idealism and that the only way forward is the way of the DUP! Sinn Fein/IRA'S veto on the Unionist people of Northern Ireland must stop!
Caroline Waugh, Northern Ireland

Trimble should resign, then stand back and let the "peace process" collapse. It will then be seen for the sham that it is, a purely political diversion that has not, nor is ever likely to solve Ulster's problems. You cannot give everything to one side and nothing to the other and expect there to be harmony.
James McNair, England

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).
J Collins, Belfast

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

Maurice Graham, Guilford, UK
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.
Maurice Graham, Guilford, UK

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, St. Louis, MO USA

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.
Brain McKay, London, UK

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 SDLP need to take on Sinn Fein in the same courageous and energetic way that David Trimble is taking on the DUP

Howard, Oxford
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.
Howard, Oxford

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.
Joy, Edinburgh, UK

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?
Mark Kane, Newry, County Down

The DUP answer is simple - Ignore the nationalists

Jane McAdam, Kent, England
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.
Jane McAdam, Kent, England

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.
Jannice Long, UK

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.
Pamela Armstrong, UK

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.
Michael, Encinitas, CA

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.
Alex Strickland, Liverpool, UK

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.
Alan Gibson, Dromore, Co. Down

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 its coming back to haunt him.
Dick Sheridan, New York, USA

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See also:

08 Jun 01 | Northern Ireland
Changes to NI political map
19 Mar 01 | Key People
David Trimble: UUP leader

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