Unadorned by the Union Flag but instead wreathed in the white flowers of peace, the coffin holding David Trimble’s earthly remains has been buried in Lisburn after a service in which his family, friends and foes united in respect.
n a church thronged with the mighty and where some of those whose organisation once threatened his life mourned his death, the funeral for Northern Ireland’s first First Minister was unpretentiously simple.
In Harmony Hill Presbyterian Church, where Lord Trimble was a regular worshipper, the congregation included Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Irish President Michael D Higgins, Stormont’s leaders, the chief constable, the Queen’s representative, the US consul general, representatives of Catholic and Protestant churches and ordinary members of the public.
Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern – the Irish leader who best understood unionists and for whom Lord Trimble had enormous respect – cut short his holiday to be present.
As the congregation filed out of the church, Mr Ahern – who just weeks ago came to Queen’s University to pay tribute to the mortally ill Lord Trimble – affectionately touched the former Ulster Unionist leader’s oak coffin as he passed.
Remembering David Trimble
As the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s funeral began, his minister, the Rev Fiona Forbes, told mourners: “The array of those who have gathered today to pay their respects bears witness not only to David’s impact on the political landscape of which he was so much a part, but also to the imprints he left upon the same, and to the legacy he left all of us”.
Describing Lord Trimble as “a committed family man”, the former Presbyterian moderator the Very Rev Dr Charles McMullen paid tribute to Daphne Trimble, who had “been his constant companion and soulmate since their marriage in 1978 and his achievements would not have been possible without her unwavering support”.
The cleric recounted how the Bangor-born future political leader’s school reports were not always promising. One school report told his parents: “There is not the slightest hope of David getting the scholarship next year unless he eradicates this gross carelessness.” A further report from his final term at Bangor Grammar School noted that his lively mind could lead him “into irrelevance which can be disastrous in examination conditions.”
Those mistaken assessments of the intellectually gifted Lord Trimble’s abilities were the start of a trend which would persist throughout the former Upper Bann MP’s life; his rivals, and often his friends, would misjudge where he was going or why he was acting as he did.
The Rev McMullen, a former assistant minister at Harmony Hill, recalled a man who would cook lunch after Sunday worship and then discuss the topic of the day with his wife and four children – but also a man whose friend and fellow Queen’s University law lecturer had been murdered by the IRA and who knew he lived under constant threat.
“David and Daphne made life as normal as possible for their children, but we cannot avoid mentioning the terrible years of The Troubles,” he said.
“I can remember visiting the family just after David’s election as MP and being overwhelmed at the sight of security installations. Daphne listened to the news and on that basis worked out when her husband would be home. She spoke to me about worrying as she waited for her husband to return home from a political meeting, feeling relieved as she heard his car turning into the drive, but then tensing again as she waited for him to be safely inside.”
The Rev McMullen said that the Good Friday Agreement had succeeded in “in placing the principle of consent at the centre of our politics and ultimately removing the gun” but said that “we are all, to a greater or lesser extent, recovering sectarians”.
Appealing to the illustrious congregation before him, the minister said: “Can we use this service today, in a fitting tribute to one of the great, to redouble our efforts on this island home of ours? With courage, pragmatism and generosity of spirit may our politicians engage wholeheartedly in resolving the outstanding issues surrounding the Northern Ireland Protocol, so that our democratic institutions are quickly restored and we can all move forward together.”
Lord Trimble’s children each read from the Bible during the service. His eldest son, Richard, read from Psalm 34, including the words “the righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles”.
Victoria Trimble read Micah chapter four’s famous words of peace: “They will beat their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war any more”.
Referring again to peace, Nicholas Trimble, the only one of Lord Trimble’s children who has followed him into politics as an Ulster Unionist councillor, read from John chapter 14: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you”. Sarah Mugford read from 1 John chapter four: “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
Among the local politicians present were several republicans – former Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, Assembly Speaker Alex Maskey, and the first minister elect Michelle O’Neill.
Lord Trimble’s biographer, Lord Godson, spoke eloquently in praise of the subject of his book Himself Alone, joking that he may have to reconsider that title given the generous response from across the political spectrum in the wake of the 77-year-old’s death.
Lord Godson, in recent years a fellow Conservative peer, said that Lord Trimble was the “most substantial figure thrown up by unionism” since the foundation of Northern Ireland in 1921.
He said: “In death he is finally being afforded the respect and love from all communities on this island that he deserves, and did not always receive in the height of his powers.”
Among the mourners were Secretary of State Shailesh Vara, NIO Minister Conor Burns, TUV leader Jim Allister, numerous SDLP politicians, former journalists Ken Reid and Stephen Grimason, Queen’s University vice chancellor Ian Greer, Catholic bishop Noel Trainor and former deputy first minister Mark Durkan.
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, once a fierce internal critic of Lord Trimble, sat just behind the Prime Minister and Irish President.
Most of Lord Trimble’s former advisers were present. Among them were Lord Bew, David Campbell, David Kerr, Mark Neale, Ray Hayden, Graham Gudgin and Ruth Dudley Edwards. The Irish writer Kevin Myers, Lord Trimble’s former private secretary Maura Quinn and his former election agent John Dobson were also in the church.
Lord Kilclooney, who as John Taylor in 1995 was the man most observers expected to become Ulster Unionist leader instead of Lord Trimble, was present, as was former North Down MP Lady Hermon, a student of Lord Trimble’s at Queen’s University before entering politics.
Lord Trimble was buried in Lisburn New Cemetery Extension on the Blaris Road.
https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/politics/buried-in-simplicity-without-pomp-or-flags-david-trimble-is-mourned-by-friends-and-foes-41882701.html David Trimble: Buried in simplicity without pomp or flags, former Northern Ireland first minister is mourned by friends and foes