Sinn Féin “adventurism” is threatening the 1998 Belfast Agreement, its main unionist architect, Lord Trimble, has said.
The former Ulster Unionist first minister also said that he believed that most of the changes which the accord brought to Northern Ireland would have come anyway through increasing nationalist involvement in politics.
Lord Trimble made the comments in the forward to a new history of Northern Ireland, ‘The Shaping of Northern Ireland, a Historical Perspective’, by Alan Acheson, a former lecturer at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, and a former headmaster of Portora Royal School.
The forward, which was written last month, refers to two points in history where the former MP says that unionism and nationalism reached agreement, in 1916 and 1925, “only to see the constructive ambiguity at the heart of the first fail two months later because of factors outside its scope, raised by conservative cabinet ministers; and the second to slowly fade away”.
He went on: “There is a third time when unionists and nationalists have reached agreement, namely the Belfast Agreement of 1998, which is presently threatened by republican adventurism.”
Referring to the 30-year period after the early 1970s, Lord Trimble described it as having entailed “the longest, and most sustained, effort by Irish nationalism to compel unionists to acquiesce in an all-Ireland state, pursued sometimes by peaceful and diplomatic means, and almost all of that time, by violent means on a greater scale than at any time arguably since the seventeenth century, and certainly since 1798”.
Lord Trimble went on: “It is, however, unarguably the case that the nationalist campaign failed.
“There are some who regard the Belfast Agreement of 1998 as a consolation prize for nationalists.
“I am content that the Agreement has brought virtually all strands of northern nationalism into peaceful, democratic politics, but would observe that most of the changes to Northern Ireland politics would have happened anyway through the increasing size and involvement of the nationalist community; and that happens within a constitutional framework more robust than any we have previously seen.”