David McNarry: Working with David Trimble was a personal privilege

Working with David Trimble as an advisor, friend and colleague was a personal privilege.

By David McNarry
Saturday, 6th August 2022, 8:30 am
Updated Saturday, 6th August 2022, 8:46 am
David McNarry
David McNarry

Boarding the DT Starship to go where no unionist had gone before was an exciting, enlightening trip of a lifetime experience.

One day sitting near DT’s desk, I answered the phone. The unmistakable ‘drawl’ said, “Hi David, Bill here. We need to talk.”

“Wrong David, Mr President,” I replied. “Hold on please he will be with you in a minute.”

Those on his team can smile when reflecting on the journey David Trimble took us on.

In the pressure cooker of the great and the good telling David what he should do, understandably mistakes were made.

When push came to shove he did it his way. The burden on everyone was at times crushing, especially on David.

When he greeted you with a click of his heels and a pat on the shoulder it was his way of saying ‘well done, you made a worthwhile contribution’.

Trimble inherited a party set in its ways, unable to grasp the ramifications of demographic change and sheltered from reality by failing to face up to the challenges lurking around the corner. But thankfully, ‘Domani e un altro giorno’ — tomorrow is another day — was not in David’s DNA.

Unionism was flat and complacent until the opera buff who enjoyed Elvis Presley — ‘I’m all shook up’ — did precisely that, shake up unionism. The good news is that he succeeded. His actions revitalized unionism and, as they say, the rest is history.

It would be a fitting tribute to the tenacity of David Trimble that his legacy survives by acclaim and assent.

All the merited accolades registered following David’s sad departure cannot be left as, well said, well meant, well intended even politically expedient soundbites, but nothing else!

His legend remains in the community investment buy in for the Belfast Agreement. We voted for a new dispensation.

We should not default in our responsibility to keep the Agreement moving forward in NI’s best interests.

The political outline of the Agreement remains work in progress beset with deliberate pitstops. Unionists must reclaim the narrative script of 1998 before it is stolen by republicans intent on fashioning the final chapter.

Pretty cheap Sinn Fein tactics, but not unexpected from people who did all they could to wipe out the Agreement during the referendum.

Agreeing a joint strategy and forging a 2022 visionary pro-Union blueprint to compete with opposing republicanism is not beyond today’s unionist leaders. It is what unionists want and it’s time they got on with making unity happen.

In a timely intervention, Lord Trimble recently spelt out the prospect of political and societal dangers ahead. His take — “Make no mistake about it, the NI Protocol does not safeguard the Good Friday Agreement” — was judgmental.

His rebuttal of the protocol sent an emphatic message which others cannot ignore.

The David Trimble legacy is for unionist, nationalist and whoever to honour by taking full ownership of the Belfast Agreement. This is a challenge worth completing in a manner he would approve.

Let’s do it, in both his memory and in our names.