Lord Godson, author of “Himself Alone: David Trimble and the Ordeal of Unionism”, referred to a WhatsApp text the DUP leader sent him, which praised the former First Minister despite their differences over the Belfast Agreement.
Lord Godson told mourners at the funeral: “Right up to the last days of his life, 20 years after leaving office, David’s opinion still mattered very much to others -- including long-time opponents who had broken with him over the Belfast Agreement. Like WT Cosgrave in the Irish Free State, David’s stayed in office long enough to force his anti-Treaty opponents to play the political game within the revised rules that he himself had set.
He thought long and hard about this -- and would have noted, with interest, that one of the first messages I received after the news of his death came from Sir Jeffrey Donaldson: ‘David was undoubtedly a most courageous, determined and passionate Unionist who wanted the best for Northern Ireland. Quite rightly, history will look kindly on him and it now falls on us who remain to take forward his work and to secure the Union that he loved’.”
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Commenting last night on that message, Sir Jeffrey said: “My differences with David post-Agreement were genuine and significant, particularly in relation to the entry of Sinn Fein into Government before the IRA had decommissioned its weapons, and the requirement for Sinn Fein to support the Police and the rule of law.
“These issues were addressed more adequately at St Andrews and successive agreements.
He added: “Nevertheless, I have no doubt that David was motivated by wanting the best for Northern Ireland and I regard him as a courageous, determined and passionate unionist.”