Speech delivered May 6th, 2005 at Ulster Unionist Party Headquarters, Cunningham House, Belfast

I thought it would be appropriate to make just a few observations.

You will not be surprised by my decision to resign – after the result there was no other course. As the Newsletter said this morning, something of this nature had been in my mind for sometime. If we had had a better Election result I do not think I would have continued as Leader of the Party as long as Mr.Blair is likely to continue as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Indeed, in the run up to the election my primary objective, in party terms, was to lay the basis for a transition to someone else who could carry on the task of leading the party. This is now being done more rapidly than had been in my mind beforehand, but there you are.

Looking back over the years as party leader, clearly the most important thing that happened was the negotiation of the Belfast Agreement. I want to make it absolutely clear that I have no regrets at all about involving ourselves in that negotiation or about the outcome. Of course where you have a negotiation and you have an Agreement which involves an element of give and take, there will be aspects of it that you might have liked to be different. But I have no regrets about the strategic decision, or about the fundamentals of the Agreement.

I am quite sure that the future development of Northern Ireland is going to be based on that Agreement, give or take a bit here or there. I do not think the fundamentals are going to change. That view is hugely reinforced by Democratic Unionist Party’s negotiations last autumn. There they showed that they were not able to, or anxious to, and it is for them to say which, change any of the fundamentals of the Agreement.

That negotiation also demonstrated that the DUP were not capable of making an agreement. They did not close the deal that was there. Their nerve broke at the last minute. Indeed it is my view that we are likely to see a similar breakdown from the DUP if they engage in negotiation in the future.

So the fundamental criticism we made of the DUP during the campaign is, I think, still true and I think it will be borne out too by events to come.

I have to deal, however, with the reasons why we lost. Clearly we did lose. I see those reasons in what happened after the Agreement and as a result of the Agreement not being properly implemented. Oh, a huge amount was done in terms of implementation. We made a huge effort in terms of implementation. If there is any criticism, that I would accept of our approach, it is that, maybe, we tried too hard to implement the Agreement.

Those who accuse us of not selling the agreement are, of course, completely utterly and totally beside the mark. I have always regarded that as a totally fatuous comment. It is perfectly obvious that the problem of implementation is that Republicans did not implement the Agreement. If they had implemented the Agreement then they would have disarmed totally by May of 2000. If they had implemented the Agreement then there would have been a complete end to all activity that was not exclusively peaceful and democratic. It is perfectly obvious that the Republicans, even today, have not implemented their part of the Agreement.

That is the basic cause for the shift that has taken part in Unionist opinion and that shift started to take place quite soon after the Agreement when people could see that it wasn’t being properly implemented.

The other main factor is that the Government, primarily our own Government, but to an extent also the Irish Government, was seriously at fault in not upholding the principles of the agreement. When Republicans failed to deliver they found Governments were indulgent of them and protected them and Governments still making the same mistake. I listened this morning to Peter Hain and I have to tell him that he will be a failure as Secretary of State of Northern Ireland if he continues the approach that he outlined on the radio this morning. He is making the same mistake that the Government has made over the course of the last number of years. He might also like to ask himself what other Unionist Leader is going to make an effort to implement the Agreement, when they see what has happened to the one leader who did unambiguously endeavour to do so.

Unfortunately, I see the likelihood of a stalemate here until Government changes its approach, and until Republicans change in the way that they should. There will be no point in blaming Unionism for voting in the way that it has when that vote was a not unreasonable reaction to the failures of others.

There is also the question of this Party and what is going to happen. There are things done. The Party President and Party Chairman are with me here today, and I thank them very much for being here with me. They have the task now of setting in train the election of the new leader.

But please remember this. This is a party of rules. It has a constitution that it adheres to. It is not a party governed by the will of a dictatorial leader or president or chairman. It is a party that will follow its own rules in doing that. The Officers have to meet and put a recommendation before the Executive. Of course individual officers have their views and will express them, but you must bear in mind that we have our own procedures to go through. So the timing of a meeting has yet to be firmly determined, although of course people have contingencies in mind and arrangements are being explored to see what can be done.

I have a very important thing I want to say about the future of the party. First, this Party has a future. I have no doubt about that. Unionism has to have the Ulster Unionist Party, because the Democratic Unionist Party is not capable, in the long run, of being a vehicle for Unionism.

The Democratic Unionist Party, no matter what support it has gained in recent years because of people’s dislike of the implementation of the Agreement, is built round The Free Presbyterian Church. The attitudes of The Free Presbyterian Church are at the core of the attitudes of that Party and those attitudes, in socio-political terms, are entirely remote from the attitudes and values of the Unionist people as a whole. In that simple fact lies the justification for my comment that Unionism needs the Ulster Unionist Party. It needs a vehicle with the values of the Ulster Unionist Party. Those values I have summed up in the use of the term decent. Those values, of course, go wider than just that term but they are epitomised in that term, and those values will find expression politically through this party. But we have a huge task in terms of re-building.

I shall be quite happy to make whatever contribution I can to the rebuilding of the party. It is of course it will be primarily a task for the new leader and for the officers of the party and its elected representatives. My contribution will now be a much more modest one, but I will make whatever contribution I can. I have one determination. It is that I shall treat my successor in a much better way than my predecessor treated me. You may say that will not be difficult, but that is by the way.

I will certainly give my loyal support to whoever emerges as the next leader of the Ulster Unionist Party and I will do what I can to assist the rebuilding of the party.


QUESTION
You have directed blame at a number of organisations and political parties – how much of the blame can be directly attributed to you?’

DT
That is a fair point and it is not one that I can easily answer. It’s a question for others – if you ask me what mistakes do I think I might have made – I know the man in the street will say I should have played harder in some of the negotiations that we had post the Agreement. You know one makes judgements at the time and there maybe something in that.

The one thing that I would say as I stand here today, is that I did at times after the Assembly Election in 2003 think about whether or not I should have resigned as Leader. That may be a regret. I think it might have been better for the Party had I resigned, say, early in 2004; but there you are.

QUESTION
We are now awaiting a statement from the IRA that they have gone away, are going away whatever. Given your experiences, what would your reaction to such a statement by the IRA be and do you believe that the DUP will inevitably have to respond to that if the IMC says yes.

DT
I think there would only be any obligation for parties to respond to it if you had assessments from the IMC saying we are satisfied that the IRA has disbanded. If statements like that came, then I think yes there would be an obligation to respond.

But that is not likely to be the case because I do not think that Republicans have yet realised that they have to disband the private army, and Government is not making it clear to them that they must. The reluctance of Government to use the terms that I have just used is in itself a mistake. The fact that Government is still not putting pressure on the Republican movement is also a mistake and its part of the mistake that led to the problem of the outcome last Thursday. That is why I said earlier that Peter Hain will be a failure unless he changes his approach.

QUESTION
Mr. Trimble, you mentioned Peter Hain who has only just taken over the job. What about Tony Blair who you have dealt with over the years has he let you down personally or not?’

DT
I will let other people make that judgement.

QUESTION
Mr. Trimble, you said that the Unionist people need your Party – what is it going to take for them to want your party?’

DT
Well that is the task for my successor and I would be reluctant to start speculating about things, because then I would be appearing to set out an agenda for my successor who will want to do things his, or her, own way.

QUESTION
Would you like to endorse anyone?’

DT
(Laughs) Ah no.

QUESTION
You say you are ready to go, what will you miss least about this job’

DT Well I don’t know – there have been times when criticisms in terms of their substance may be valid are expressed here in far too directly personal a way. I have had to put up with a lot of personal abuse, from a variety of quarters, most of which I considered to be ill founded, and I will not, obviously, miss that.

I will not miss the occasional mistake that creeps into the media’s reportage of events I’m thinking here of something in yesterday’s Sunday World which ended up its piece on me by referring to the acquisition by me of a house in the countryside in Cambridgeshire so that I could be close to my son who is studying in Cambridgeshire. It might be an admirable idea and I wish I had the resources to acquire such a home, but I have not. If the Sunday World wish to present me with one that would be excellent.

QUESTION
You did say reflecting on post assembly and post agreement, “I may have played harder”. I am paraphrasing you here, but when you said harder you were branded officially and habitually by the DUP as a push over Unionist. Looking at the Election results, would you not agree that your electorate want stand up Unionists in the persons of the DUP. Therefore, is there a future for the UUP if that is what the electorate are demanding? Somebody - or representatives who will stand up to Republicans, as they see it.

DT:
My feeling, and I am rather sad about this, is that I think actually the electorate are voting for a stalemate. They do not expect the DUP to do better. I think they are right in that. As I said earlier, I do not think the DUP can. In fact in the DUP’s negotiation last Autumn they did not get any better. In some respects, they got worse than what went before! Sadly my view is that the Unionist electorate who voted the way, voted for stalemate.

QUESTION:
But why would they vote for stalemate David? I do not see the logic of that.

DT
Unfortunately they are comfortable with direct rule. Direct rule means that they don’t have to put up with ear ache from people they dislike intensely. The DUP know that. They know that it is going to be hugely difficult, if not impossible, to sell Sinn Fein Ministers to Unionist voters because SF has behaved so badly and the SF ministers behaved so badly over the last few years. When I say that the SF ministers behaved badly their chief offence was their attitude, their complete lack of any acknowledgement of the hurt republicans had caused, their complete lack of any humility - the constant triumphalism of those Ministers really did eat into the electorate.

QUESTION
Give us some examples of this. They were in your executive give us some examples of it.

DT
I would have no difficulty in doing it – sorry I’m talking about their constant public statements – I am not getting into this I’m entitled to make such criticisms as I think are appropriate.

QUESTION:
Have you spoken to the PM or the Taoiseach over the weekend?’

DT
I did get a phone call from the PM on Saturday I was also very pleased to get a phone call from John Major.

QUESTION
Mr. Trimble you mentioned that you haven’t got quite the property portfolio as mentioned in some of the newspapers in terms of your personal future do you think that you will stay here or will you be on the international stage.

DT:
My first job, which has to be done this week I believe, is to clear out my office at Westminster. That has to be done quickly not like other political systems, changes when they occur have to be done very quickly indeed. The second job I’m going to have to do is sort out my constituency offices, I’m still a Member of the Legislative Assembly for Upper Bann but with a greatly reduced office costs allowance and so I’ve got to make some decisions about that and that requires quite a bit of thought. Beyond those two points I have not yet thought to be perfectly honest with you.

QUESTION:
Can I ask you just a personal question about your emotions over the last few days – has it been a very emotional time for you.

DT: Ah now that poses awful problems for me – am I to concede that I have emotions?

QUESTION:
Are you staying as an MLA or will you step down? Are you continuing in public life would you like to go back to Westminster or to another place in Westminster under another party? You are still 18 years younger that the DUP leader, so … .

DT:
Well that is a nice statistic that is a very encouraging thought. I have mentioned my horizon for this week and the week after. I have not considered things further. You are mentioning things that I would not have regarded as possibilities, but I do not want to get into a discussion, because once I start to discuss this then you will read significance into what I do say or don’t say, and I haven’t yet taken decisions.

QUESTION:
When that critical moment came David when you had to go to the senior officers of the party and indicate your intention that I don’t want to continue – at that moment in time after your ten years was it emotional?

DT:
No, we are much more level headed people than that. Obviously there is no security of tenure in politics. You are at the mercy of the electorate all the time, and you are also at the mercy of events. Actually 10 years is a very good innings, and that was my feeling about the matter. I have had a good innings time wise. I think I have had a good innings in terms of what we managed to do. What I said at the count is still my core view of the matter. I am proud of what we did. I am proud of the progress that we have achieved. I know it was not all done in just exactly the way we would have liked and it is still not complete. But there were huge gains for the people of Northern Ireland. If I think back to ten years ago and Northern Ireland today, I can say there is a darned good balance sheet there. There are still imperfections, but I am proud of the change.

QUESTION
Is it not incredulous to hear some of the names being bandied about as potential leaders? Are you shocked about this?

DT
No

QUESTION
Why

DT:
Life is like that.

QUESTION:
David, every Unionist leader that has attempted to bring Northern Ireland to the point we are at now, has ended up in exactly the same position as you. Getting back to the point you made about direct rule do you ever see the Unionist community here prepared to be ready for change.

DT:
Yes they were

QUESTION
But how were they David?

DT:
No, I am sorry they were. It is hugely important that we do not misrepresent the past. The Unionist community voted, admittedly by a narrow majority - 55/45 - in the Referendum to endorse major change. They even voted to give Republicans a soft landing, to give them a comfortable way out of terrorism into democratic politics. But they were bitterly disappointed that Republicans did not take the offer that was made to them. But do not say that the Unionist electorate is not prepared to endorse change. It did endorse change and it sustained that change even when it was uncomfortable with it.

Bear in mind that this is now, what seven years on, and in 2001, three years on, the Unionist electorate were still prepared to give a chance for change to take place. Opinion has only moved decisively in the way it has within the past few months. The outcome in 2003 was of the DUP only being narrowly ahead of us.

So there has been a significant shift in opinion since then and it is perfectly obvious when you look back at what has happened over the over the last few months what would have caused that shift. So do not say and do not let people misrepresent the willingness of Unionists to change.

The problem has been the unwillingness of Republicans to change and that even as we stand today there is no clear indication that Republicans are prepared to make the change of giving up paramilitarism for good and disbanding the private army. That is where the question ought to be. There is no possibility of seeing the sort of local administration and properly functioning democracy here until we get rid of private armies that is the basic fact and we must not forget that.

Party President, DENIS ROGAN:

I would like to make a statement and I am doing this as President of the Party and also as a friend of David Trimble.

David is a man who in my opinion has displayed enormous political and moral courage. His efforts at trying to restore a normal society here, whilst fraught with difficulties, have as he said made a lasting impact on the political and social and economic fabric of Northern Ireland.

Unionism has a whole has been brought out of the political wilderness. Ulster Unionism in particular is now longer viewed as parochial and distant. It is respected and listened to by key opinion informers throughout these islands and throughout the world and the efforts that this party undertook under David’s courageous leadership has fundamentally changed society in Northern Ireland for the better.

Being the leader of a political party carries with it responsibility but it also means sacrificing, sacrificing certain things that normal people take for granted. I know that the pressures on David, his wife Daphne and his family have been absolutely immense and I would like personally and on behalf of the party to thank David Trimble and Daphne for all their efforts on behalf of the Ulster Unionist Party and for the greater community in Northern Ireland.

As we finish this press conference, I would like David, on behalf of the party, to wish you and Daphne all the best for the future.


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