TRIBUTES have been paid by one of Clare’s Independent TDs on the passing, this week, of former Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) leader, David Trimble.
Deputy Michael McNamara said it was fitting, on the eve of the Scariff Harbour Festival, which is now entering its third decade, to remember Mr Trimble’s contribution to peace on the island of Ireland.
The festival’s main sponsor is Waterways Ireland, an organisation established under the Good Friday Agreement.
The peace deal was finalised in 1998 by a team including Mr Trimble, and political leaders from all sides of the political divide.
In 2000, Scariff became the southern regional headquarters of the cross-border navigational authority, following a decision of the North-South Ministerial Council.
This prompted the idea of building links with the North of Ireland at cultural, political, community and sporting levels and led to the setting up, in 2003, of the Scariff Harbour Festival.
This year’s event runs from Friday (July 29) to Sunday.
“I am struck by the timing as we prepare for the return of the festival,” said the Scariff-based TD.
“In the greater scheme of things, the festival is a relatively small thing, but it has had a really significant impact and we should remember that it would not have been possible without the courage of David Trimble and others.”
Deputy McNamara also shared his own experience of meeting David Trimble in the 1990s, at the height of the peace negotiations.
At that time, before embarking on his political career, the Scariff native was an intern with RTÉ.
“Various negotiations were underway at Dublin Castle at the time and I was what you might call a ‘runner’ in the Current Affairs Division in RTÉ,” Deputy McNamara said.
“I was sent out to bring David Trimble to the studios for interview. He was a fairly intimidating figure. His public persona was not what you would describe as warm, and I was in a very lowly role.
“I have to say, I was quite surprised by how warm he was in person, particularly when dealing with someone like myself who was on the bottom rung of the ladder.
“I was also very impressed and surprised by his in-depth interest in, and his knowledge of, the Irish political scene – even down to a constituency level.”
Deputy McNamara paid tribute to Mr Trimble’s political and moral leadership and his contribution to the Peace process.
“Everyone on this island owes David Trimble and John Hume a huge debt,” he said.
“In East Clare, the Scariff Harbour Festival is one lasting legacy of the peace process and efforts to foster cross-border relations by Trimble, Hume and those who followed them.
“As the first First Minister of Northern Ireland David Trimble was a true leader,” Deputy McNamara added.
Referring to the deadlock at Stormont, since Northern Assembly Elections in May, the Independent TD was critical of the ongoing failure to elect a speaker and resume the power-sharing administration.
“If someone is elected to represent the people, they have to represent them,” he said.
“The idea of not convening and of throwing your toys out of the pram is not what people elected their representatives to do. There’s a sad lack of leadership right now.”
David Trimble, who was 77, led the UUP from 1995 to 2005. His role in negotiating The Good Friday Agreement won him the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1998, along with SDLP leader John Hume.
Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald.
Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti.
She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway.
If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at email@example.com or telephone 065 6864146.