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Prickly, awkward, hardline... even a great unionist like Lord Trimble is cruelly caricatured

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Amid the deserved lauding of Lord Trimble’s courage as an architect of the Good Friday Agreement, there’s been a persistent narrative about his personality: “short-tempered”, “prickly”, “awkward”, “lacking social skills” and of course that old favourite only applied to unionism, “hardline”.

The shorthand is of someone who did the right thing almost against their will and nature. Of a man with few likeable qualities who nevertheless in death must be accorded our begrudging admiration and thanks.

Many of these observations amount to crass caricature rather than a full character assessment. Anyone can be fractious, but they’ll exhibit many other qualities, quirks and traits. This was undoubtedly the case with Lord Trimble, as I discovered in various in-depth interviews.

One encounter, at UUP HQ in Glengall Street, Belfast, took place days before the crunch Assembly election in June 1998. Despite being under immense pressure, Trimble moved easily from astute political analysis to anecdotes of family holidays, driving through Europe. He was a major player in the peace process, but he was also a father-of-four with a life away from the public eye.

Trimble’s love of opera was known, but his wife, Daphne, revealed to me he was a huge Elvis fan. He read Brian Moore novels and enjoyed fine wine. Recently his UUP councillor son, Nicholas, told me Dolly Parton and Garth Brooks were favourites too. He spoke warmly of a dad engulfed by political drama, yet also one whom he could talk to about anything. It was quite the childhood — protesters outside their home........

© Belfast Telegraph

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