Lord Trimble receives the respect in death he deserved in life, funeral told

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As Lord David Trimble’s biographer Lord Godson looked down from the pulpit at the array of faces below, it gave him pause for thought.

Perhaps, he told mourners, the name of his book on the Nobel Peace Prize winning politician was no longer appropriate.

“The distinguished congregation gathered here today in this kirk, at short notice, in August, is proof positive of one thing – that the title of David’s biography, Himself Alone, is in some urgent need of revision,” he said.

“For David has never been less alone.”

David Trimble funeral
Lord Godson giving a reading at the funeral of David Trimble (Liam McBurney/PA)

Listening on inside Harmony Hill Presbyterian Church was UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Irish President Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach Micheal Martin and former premier Bertie Ahern.

So, too, was the DUP’s Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the Good Friday Agreement sceptic who quit the UUP under Lord Trimble’s embattled leadership to defect to the party he now leads.

Republicans and nationalists were also there in number, among them Lord Trimble’s once bitter political rival, former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams.

Current Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood also came to pay tribute to the unionist statesman who helped secure peace in Northern Ireland, but who would ultimately sacrifice his career on the altar of the historic agreement he struck in 1998.

Lord Trimble, the region’s first-ever first minister, was pilloried by many within the unionist community, including some within his own party, after signing the Good Friday accord.

David Trimble funeral
Former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams at the funeral of Lord Trimble (Liam McBurney/PA)

His resilience in the face of that vitriol was no doubt an inspiration for Lord Godson’s biography name.

“In death he is finally being accorded the respect and love from all polities and communities in these islands,” the peer told the funeral service.

“The respect and love in death which he deserved, which he did not always receive in life when he was at the height of his powers and operating, as he so very often did, in the most adverse circumstances.”

Mourners had started arriving in the modestly-sized church more than two hours before the service began.

Those unable to secure a seat inside stood on the roadside below the church steps, listening in the sunshine as the service was relayed on loudspeakers.

As the afternoon wore on, the sun gave way to rain clouds.

Just before 12.30pm the congregation stood as Rev Fiona Forbes led Lord Trimble’s widow Lady Daphne to her seat as one of the couple’s favourite classical pieces, Jeremiah Clarke’s Voluntary, played on the organ.

David Trimble funeral
Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Lady Daphne Trimble (Liam McBurney/PA)

Dressed in a black dress and hat, she sat for a moment’s reflection before the coffin bearing the peace process architect was carried in by her children.

So much of the service was about Lord Trimble the family man, the father of four and the enduring bond that he and Lady Trimble enjoyed.

Former Presbyterian moderator Rev Dr Charles McMullen, who like Lord Godson delivered a tribute, described her as his “constant companion and soulmate”.

“His achievements would not have been possible without her unwavering support,” he added.

Reverend McMullen, too, acknowledged the breadth of political perspectives sitting in the seats before him, as he urged those on opposing sides of the Irish Sea border row to find a resolution to enable the Stormont institutions that Lord Trimble helped build to function once again.

David Trimble funeral
(left to right) Richard, Victoria, Nicholas and Sarah Trimble carry the coffin of their father (Liam McBurney/PA)

History, the churchman insisted, would be “kind” to David Trimble.

“Providence shone its light on him and gave him a moment,” he said.

“Alongside others, he rose to seemingly impossible challenges with considerable strength of character, intellectual acumen, and complete integrity.

“The reward for all of us has been a radically changed landscape here in Northern Ireland, which has saved many lives and allowed a generation to grow up in relative peace.”

Closing his remarks, Lord Godson challenged the public perception of Lord Trimble as cold and at times ungracious.

“David was not cold and uncaring,” he said.

“He cared more and loved more than any politician I’ve ever known, but, critically, like his religious faith, he rarely showed it.”

The peer concluded with a passage from the Book of Proverbs.

“These timeless words are fitting epitaph for William David Trimble,” he said.

“A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.

“David leaves this world with the blessing of a good name here on earth.”

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