Trimble reviews “Great Hatred, Little Room”

David Trimble, who features, of course, in Jonathan Powell’s account of the peace process, Great Hatred, Little Room, has reviewed the book for the Guardian today. He takes issue with some misrepresentations of his positions, and points out some of them in his review, and also takes Blair and Powell to task for their “feel good” approach to things. He also adds to the Clinton debate by noting there is only one reference to her and it involves her secret service agent. It’s worth reading to get an insider’s perspective on the dish and dirt in Powell’s book.I’m currently halfway through the book myself. It is disarmingly candid, and it appears Powell never met someone who did not, in the end, get it right; he is careful to be full of praise for those who came before, ever the diplomat. He is also either amazingly naive or not wanting to reveal the extent of his knowledge; this was most striking when he described as “odd notions” Trimble’s concern about the IRA’s listening to his phone conversations: “He did, however, have slightly odd notions of the IRA’s capabilities. In one phone conversation with Tony in September he suddenly said they had to find another way to communicate because he was convinced the IRA were bugging his phone.” For Powell to seemingly dismiss this as either impossible, fanciful, paranoid or odd on Trimble’s behalf is bizarre, and shows either a weakness at the top levels of the British government, that they would not know that the IRA were capable of such and in fact, as the bugging of Brendan Hughes’ flat demonstrated, actively doing such things, or it shows that Powell is being quite cagey, for what reasons we do not know.

For all its seeming candidness, you are quite aware you aren’t getting the full story. In another example, what Trimble called “a brief, poorly balanced, chapter on the historical background” omits some curious events – namely, he goes into quite some detail about The Link – Brendan Duddy and the Mountain Climber – and its role during the first (1980) hunger strike, but makes no mention whatsoever of the second, arguably much more important and influential, 1981 hunger strike. This is especially curious given the current controversy over the deal between the Mountain Climber and the prisoners which would have averted the deaths of six of the hunger strikers. Given what is apparent that Powell knows about the Link, he would be in a position to explain much about that period, but strangely chooses not to say anything at all. This colours the rest of his account, making you aware of what he is leaving out as much as what he has put in.

Still, it is a fascinating book, and I am looking forward to finishing it.

  • Trimble’s analysis of Powell’s book is very interesting indeed and shows he still has some bark left in him. I agree that Powell appears to have ommitted quite important events and it would be intriging to see what was left in the editing room floor.

    The DUP-SF back channel will come out in the future with more detail and names attached. The longer the DUP wait on this one the worse it will be.

  • heck

    I always enjoy it when unionists on slugger lay into david trimble.

    I have come to the view, however, that his problem was not his politics but his personality.

    Trimble comes across to me as a petty, obnoxious, person. I disagree with with unionism but most politicans seem reasonable people. Trimble seems bitter.

    His injecting himself into the US democatic primary serves no purpose and his comments on the republic of ireland, when he was in the US show his real self.

    I tend to think he is just not a nice person

  • Granni Trixie

    HecK: having a “personality disorder” is the least of it for if we are to believe the research of Prof Rick Wilford, QUb inaugral lecture, when Trimble was First Minister he preferred to spend more time in Westminster than working for and in NI which held up decision making.
    I also think that the Guardian ought to have someone less partisan reviewing this book – what about it Mick?

  • jake

    candidness? you mean candour.


    I’ve been quite surprised at the relative lack of hostility to Powell’s book. It seems to me that it’s clearly written from the perspective of the beleaguered but benign superior working hard to sort out a squabble between two inferior groups.
    this is a common fantasy with a ot of English people, completely ignoring the fact that it was the British government who created the situation in the first place, and not only that, but perpetuated it for their own ends.
    Would we have had the Loyalist campaign for so long id not for the British establishment running them, instead of working to eradicate them?

  • The Watchman

    “The DUP did not win the 2001 Westminster election. We had six seats to their five. Admittedly three of them were at odds with me on policy; but that could be seen as an improvement on the previous situation, when a clear majority of the party’s MPs opposed the party’s policy.”

    On that basis, poor Lord Turtle must think 2005 was a triumph.

  • Dewi

    Gripping book actually – nice concise historical summary of respective nat and uni views of Irish history. Trimble in suchh difficult political circumstances – no wonder heseems bitter.