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Himself Alone Page 542

In The new Biography of David Trimble - Himself Alone, the author Dean Godson recounts the event when Trimble inquired as to the possibility of south Armagh demilitarisation to bring Sinn Fein into the process.This was after he had made promises to the victims of terrorism in the FAIR group that he would not countenance such a move. Following is the relevant extract from the book:

    To republicans such as Gerry Kelly, it was short on specifics. But what was really significant was the very muted Unionist response: the role of the Irish Republic and of Irish republicans in shaping security policy was now almost an accepted part of the Province's political life. Indeed, Trimble's concerns were as much about adequate consultation as about substance.

    Certainly, Trimble was going to do nothing to make IRA decommissioning less likely - and, indeed, was willing to go a very long way to help it happen. Thus, in January 2000, he and Ken Maginnis visited Sir Ronnie Flanagan at RUC headquarters. At one point in the discussion, Trimble said: 'Ken's going to do his nut when I say this.' The 'this' turned out to be an inquiry as to whether Flanagan could ask the Army GOC whether some security installations in south Armagh could be removed (including the Borucki sangar in Crossmaglen). As he understood it - presumably from the British or directly from the republicans - the stumbling block to movement on decommissioning was coming from Provisionals in that area. Flanagan responded that any such removals would have to be based on a security assessment. Trimble says he wanted to see whether there was any flexibility on what south Armagh republicans see as a 'totem pole' and withdrew the suggestion when the system was explained to him, but it was nonetheless an amazing proposal to make. For it was a sign of how far Unionism had moved and what a huge price it was prepared to pay even for a fig-leaf gesture on decommissioning. Here was the leader of the UUP and First Minister of Northern Ireland - who was meant to look after the interests of all law-abiding people - quietly 'inquiring' of the Chief Constable of the RUC whether he, in turn, could 'inquire' of the Army commander to lower his guard in one of the most lawless parts of the country.

    Trimble was prepared to go the 'extra mile for peace', but it was not the only part of his strategy in this period. He was also determined, having moved himself, to ensure that the basis on which he did so was fully understood by all concerned so that if things did go wrong, the blame would fall upon those who had failed to deliver on their obligations - namely, the republican movement. At the lunch at No. 10 following the BIC on Friday 17 December, he gently reminded Ahern and Blair of the understanding reached between himself and Adams in George Mitchell's hotel suite in the Belfast Hilton at the end of October, and quoted the words then used by the former US Senate Majority leader.