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David Trimble, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, is one of the unlikeliest and most complicated political leaders of our times. Long reviled by nationalist Ireland and much of British opinion as an awkward and flinty loyalist extremist, both his admirers and detractors agree that the Belfast Agreement could not have been made without him. This taciturn ex-Queen’s University law lecturer and lover of opera has become the first Unionist leader to enjoy international recognition, being praised by the Nobel Peace Prize committee for his ‘great political courage’ and regularly visiting the White House. But in the process, he has been excoriated as a traitor by many of his one-time supporters.
In this comprehensive biography, the author has been given unique access to the politician and his papers. In addition to conducting over one hundred hours of interviews with Trimble and his wife, the author has spoken to over three hundred friends, foes and colleagues of the unionist leader – including Tony Blair, Bertie Ahern, Mo Mowlam, Peter Mandelson, John Hume, John Major, John Bruton and Gerry Adams. He has also enjoyed privileged access to the private papers and diaries of other leading politicians in Ulster, Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland. The author also reveals Trimble’s dependence on an extraordinary ‘kitchen cabinet’ of informal advisers, composed largely of southern Irish Catholics, including the ex-senior IRA member, Sean O;Callaghan. Rarely can any practicing politician have spoken so candidly to any biographer.
This book is a remarkable study of a man and his times, and an illuminating record of the political dynamics of the Troubles and the complexity of the calculations which all leaders locked in such disputes much make.
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