Representatives from across Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council have paid tribute to former First Minister David Trimble.
News of Lord Trimble’s passing, at the age of 77, broke during the council’s monthly meeting on Monday evening.
He led the Ulster Unionist Party from 1995-2005 and was a key figure in the negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement, winning the Noble Peace Prize, along with SDLP leader John Hume, for his role in its deliverance.
Paying tribute to the former Upper Bann MLA, UUP group leader Alderman Jim Speers said the news has “come as a surprise to many” and said he shall be remembered as a man who put “country before everything else”.
“His death has come as a surprise to many. I know he had not been well but one always hoped and trusted that he had better days ahead but that was not to be,” said Alderman Speers.
“On my own behalf and, I suspect, on behalf of my own party, and hopefully everyone in this chamber and within this community, I want to extend sympathy to his family at this particular time of sadness.
“It is the loss of one that has done so much for this community and country at times, to great personal sacrifice. He put country before himself more than anything else.
“I am stuck for words but in any extent I do extend my deepest sympathy to his wife Daphne and the family on this very sad occasion.”
Council’s deputy Lord Mayor, Councillor Tim McClelland, who led the meeting in the absence of the Lord Mayor, described it as “sad news” and said his thoughts and prayers are with “Lord Trimble’s dear wife and family” and offered the council’s “deepest sympathies and condolences”.
DUP group leader, Alderman Mark Baxter extended his and his party’s condolences to Lord Trimble’s family and friends.
“On behalf of the DUP grouping I want to extend our sympathies, not only to the Lord Trimble’s family but to his party colleagues as well, on a countrywide basis but particularly here in the chamber,” he said.
“I think everybody that is involved in politics at all, over the last 20 years will know of Lord Trimble and the contribution he made to politics in Northern Ireland.
“Whether you agreed with his stance or not, it is not easy being a public representative and certainly there were controversial issues to tackle during his political career.
“I think it has to be said that politicians put themselves up there for more ridicule than anyone else and that has to be commended.
“On behalf of the party, I just want to reiterate our condolences and sympathies to the family and his party colleagues at this time.”
SDLP group leader, Councillor Thomas O’Hanlon also extended his sympathies to Lord Trimble’s family and friends and told the chamber he will always regard him as a man “who took bold decisions”.
“I want to extend our sympathies on the passing of David Trimble to his family and friends and to his party colleagues on Council,” he said.
“Much will be written and said about the former First Minister in the days ahead but for me, he took the bold decisions in 1998 as he led political unionism into the Good Friday Agreement.
“I was there in Banbridge that night when he lost his seat as MP and it was uncomfortable to watch.
“When you sit back and see those who berated him as he left the count centre that night end up taking his positions that was no doubt very difficult for both he and his family.
“There were strong positive things that David did during his time, through difficult times. I recall him and Seamus Mallon walking through the streets of Poyntzpass when young Damien Trainor and Philip Allen were murdered.
“I recall him and John Hume on the stage in Belfast campaigning for a ‘yes’ vote. The men and women around them in both parties took the difficult decision that led this community to a better place and I hope history reflects the important contribution he made to peace on this island and between these islands in the years ahead.
“I also want to pass on our sympathies to his wife Daphne, his family and also to his party colleagues tonight.”
Alliance Party councillor Peter Lavery paid tribute to the impact Lord Trimble has had on the lives of those from his generation.
“I concur with all the remarks made thus far,” said Cllr Lavery.
“David Trimble’s contribution to the peace process meant that my generation, indeed everyone living in Northern Ireland, has been able to live better and safer futures.
“His leadership will not be forgotten. On behalf on the Alliance Party I want to pass on our condolences to his family, his circle of friends and indeed his colleagues within the UUP, particularly within Upper Bann.”
Sinn Fein group leader, Councillor Liam Mackle described the news of the former First Minister’s death as “quite a shock” and said he wished to “pass on our condolences to all the family circle”.