Blair and Ahern lead tributes to Trimble

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The Independent Online

Tony Blair and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern led the tributes today to Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble for his role in today's crucial vote.

Tony Blair and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern led the tributes today to Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble for his role in today's crucial vote.

The British Prime Minister said the result was "further positive endorsement" of the peace process.

He added: "I pay tribute once more to the leadership of David Trimble and of the other political leaders in Northern Ireland who continue to drive the process forward.

"We are now in a position to move towards devolution and decommissioning and to build a lasting peace in Northern Ireland."

Mr Blair continued: "It's taken a great deal of courage and leadership to get here and it will take further courage and leadership to build that lasting peace, but I remain of the view that we have the best prospect in a generation for doing so, and replacing violence and terror with peace and democracy."

Mr Ahern said the vote would be seen as a "milestone" in the peace process.

He said: "In time, today will be seen as a milestone in breaking the logjam, and allowing the Good Friday Agreement to go on.

"Mr Trimble had to carry his party with him and he has done so successfully - and very handsomely."

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson said: "I congratulate David Trimble on an excellent result. He deserves it as does the whole of Northern Ireland. Now we can begin to put the last 30 years behind us as we chart the way forward." He added: "This was not an easy decision for the Ulster Unionist Council. They have risen to the occasion - looking forward rather than backward in the best traditions of their party - and I pay tribute to them for doing so.

"As a result, there is an opportunity for all parties to work together to build a new Northern Ireland.

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