And still Trimble largely remains the enigmatic creature he was before. However the book is a useful reference for some of the action we’ve had since April 1998 (though it cuts off when the end-game was still in it’s early stages).
Several things leapt out at me:
1 The key influence that several Catholic/former Nationalist figures like Eoghan Harris, Sean O’Callaghan, Ruth Dudley Edwards and to a lesser extent Malachi O’Doherty (especially his influential book The Trouble with Guns) have had on Trimble’s attempt to move beyond his natural protestant/Unionist constituency.
2 How disorganised and disparate the UUP is as a party.
Although it had run Northern Ireland on the lines of a one party state for almost seventy years it was now the most fractious, disorganised political movement in Western Europe.
One incident he recalls involves an approach by ‘a politician from the no Unionist side’ to the late Mark Fulton, asking him not to let the LVF hand over their weapons because it would only help the Trimble cause.
…there is no one at Westminster able or willing to play the ‘Orange Card’ ever again. Instead of railing against those forces massed against him and his people, Trimble has tried to re-shape Unionism to adapt to these new times.
And there’s a quote from Maurice Hayes as early as Autumn 1998:
Trimble is in considerable trouble and needs the support of non-unionists as much as that of his own party. The argument is that Trimble should stop whinging and get on with job. Which is all very fine but not of much practicable use if he is left standing there on his own, his troops having deserted him.”
Plus ça change!
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty