By Claudia Savage, PA
The sons of David Trimble and John Hume have revealed the personal sacrifices their fathers made to help to bring about the Good Friday Agreement.
Mr Hume and Mr Trimble were jointly awarded the Nobel peace prize for their efforts in the creation of the historic deal 25 years ago.
Former Ulster Unionist leader Mr Trimble died in July 2022 and former SDLP leader Mr Hume in August 2020.
Nicholas Trimble and John Hume Jr both said their fathers would search for solutions if they could see the political deadlock present in Northern Ireland 25 years after the Good Friday Agreement.
“I think he would try and think of a better way,” Mr Trimble said.
“There is always a way through difficulties and the solution that dad would come up with would never be the obvious brute force tactic, he would try and think his way out of a problem first, and I think that’s maybe a trick that’s being missed here.”
Mr Hume said he thought his father would be frustrated to see the current political deadlock at Stormont.
“He’d be very frustrated, just like he was over the years with the deadlock that we had for decades in the north, and I think he would be doing his damnedest to bring the two sides together, to concentrate on everything that is in our common interest and using that common ground to build out to find a way forward,” he said.
Nicholas Trimble said that while he may have been too young to fully understand the nature of his father’s work between 1996 and 1998, Mr Trimble said the whole family felt the excitement of the negotiating period.
“Our house would have been used quite a lot for dad meeting so many people, so there was always an open door of the people who I hadn’t a clue who they were coming in and sitting with dad in the living room,” he said.
“I was just running around like a little terror in the house, wanting to be nosey, what’s going on there? What’s all this talking about?
“There became a sort of an unwritten rule that in the house, the kids would answer the phone because we loved it actually, this was a great novel thing. So, we were the telephone answering service.”
As he grew older, Mr Trimble said he became more aware of the vitriol present in politics at the time.
“You did become aware that there was a nastiness in politics, and it got physical at times,” he said.
“Mum came back from election counts with bruises on her shins where people kicked her and things. It was rough. It was wild.”
Mr Trimble added: “Thankfully that’s passed. I certainly hope it’s passed, I certainly hope we don’t ever go back to those days, because politics shouldn’t be at that gutter level, it shouldn’t be attacking, you should be seeking to try and create something new and work with people.”
David Trimble died on July 25th 2022 and his son said the funeral showed the impact his father had had.
“When anyone loses their father, it’s a raw, visceral moment,” he said.
“But there was such a tremendous outpouring of sympathies of just well wishing from internationally. I mean, it was staggering. Just the letters that were coming to mum’s house, you know, they just kept flowing in.”
Mr Trimble said his father’s legacy is the lasting peace in Northern Ireland.
“He laid the foundation for this new Northern Ireland that we’re in, really, and you know that no one person can take the full credit of the agreement, but there are some people that if they weren’t there, it wouldn’t have happened. And I think my dad was one of those people,” he said.
“He knew it would happen at great cost, but he did it anyway. I will always, always love and respect the man for doing that.”
Mr Trimble added: “It took real courage, what he did, and I think his legacy is the lasting peace that we have. I just hope that that legacy is enough to help our current politicians get over whatever stumbling blocks are facing them at the moment.”
Mr Trimble also said his father had a side not many got to see.
“I know he has this reputation … as a sort of a man of logic and rationality, and not so much emotion. But he did have a fun side that not very many people got to see,” he said.
“He was a good man and he was an honest man, and I think he did his best in the best way that he could.”
John Hume Jr was in his mid-20s and was working abroad at the time of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.
“I wasn’t actually in the house while all this madness was going on and as we got closer to a deal, but I would have been on the phone every day and it would have been talking to mum and dad, there was lots of excitement as we got closer and the prospects for an agreement became much more real,” he said.
The signing of the agreement was the achievement of a lifetime for his father, Mr Hume said.
“When everything got done, I was talking to them both, but just the sheer joy and happiness, and, in some ways, relief that there was a new beginning and that there was a new dawn in many ways was very, very clear.”
Mr Hume added: “He gave his life to this. He was unwavering. He chose his path and he stuck to it for his entire career. It was, I suppose, everything coming together, so it was a wonderful day.”
Mr Hume also stated the agreement was not without personal sacrifice for his father.
“The years preceding Good Friday were really difficult for dad, he had a lot of health issues, a lot of it brought on, I think, by the stresses of his work,” he said.
“It was a difficult time, these were hugely sensitive negotiations, there was a lot going on, there was ups and downs, it was a rollercoaster for both him and mum.”
Mr Hume said his father was also willing to make political sacrifices to achieve peace.
“Dad’s career was a long and lonely one,” he said.
“In the 90s, in particular, when dad started talking to Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein and the IRA, he came under a huge amount of pressure.
“He was pressured not only from the media, but also from other political parties, but also from within the SDLP.
“His view was always very much, ‘well, if I can solve a problem that having thousands of soldiers on the street for many, many years hasn’t been able to solve just by talking to somebody, then it’s my duty to do so’, and that’s what he did.
“He weathered quite a storm.”
As with Mr Trimble’s family, the Hume family witnessed the strength of feeling some people at the time had towards their father’s careers.
“I remember one day picking up the paper and there were 10 pages dedicated to dad and the mistakes he was making, and quite sort of vitriolic comments. It was a really, really tough time,” Mr Hume said.
John Hume’s commitment is something more politicians today can learn from, his son said.
“He got involved because he felt he needed to, that real sort of dedication to public service, to helping his community, to helping Derry, to making it a better place, to making the north and the island of Ireland a better place, that’s really what’s needed in public service today,” he said.
Mr Hume said his father’s legacy only grew more apparent as he got older.
“I never really saw him as the public figure, it’s only now as I start to read back and sort of see the history of it all I actually just scratch my head in wonder as to how he worked, what he did and what he managed to achieve,” he said.
He added: “Despite the fact that he was a very committed politician and married to the job in more ways than one, he still found time for us all.
“He was still a great family and we have some amazing holidays, great memories. I think he was a remarkable individual.”