British PM hails 'giant' Trimble as N.Ireland buries peace architect

·2-min read

By Amanda Ferguson

BELFAST (Reuters) - Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed Nobel Peace laureate David Trimble as a giant of British history for leading Northern Ireland's Protestant majority to a 1998 peace deal, as allies and former enemies joined to pay their respects at his funeral.

Trimble, who was the first to hold the office of Northern Irish First Minister following the power-sharing deal that largely ended three decades of bloodshed in the region, died on July 25 at the age of 77 following a short illness.

"His principled determination to forge a better future for all marks him out as one of the giants of our history," Johnson said in a Twitter post following a low-key funeral in which no politicians addressed the mourners.

Irish prime minister Micheal Martin also attended the service at Trimble's local Presbyterian Church in Lisburn, just outside Belfast.

Trimble jointly received the Nobel prize in 1998 with Irish nationalist John Hume for his role in helping end the violence between Catholic nationalists seeking Irish unity and pro-British Protestants wishing to stay in the United Kingdom that claimed some 3,600 lives.

But his pursuit of peace alienated many pro-British unionists just as his earlier activism had angered Irish nationalists.

"In death he is finally being accorded the respect and love from all polities and communities in these islands... which he did not always receive in life," Trimble's biographer Dean Godson told the service.

Politicians from across Northern Ireland's political spectrum attended, including the heads of Trimble's Ulster Unionist Party and of the rival Democratic Unionist Party, which has held the position of First Minister since 2007.

Gerry Adams, former leader of the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, was one of several senior Irish nationalists to attend.

"The array of those who have gathered today to pay their respects bears witness ... to the legacy he left all of us," Charles McMullen, former Moderator Presbyterian Church in Ireland told the mourners.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, another key player in the peace process, told the BBC that the deal could not have happened without Trimble.

Several Irish embassies around the world flew their flags at half mast to mark the funeral.

(Writing by Amanda Ferguson and Conor Humphries; Additional reporting by Muvija M; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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