THE NOBEL Peace Prize was bestowed yesteday on the Unionist and nationalist leaders David Trimble and John Hume, signifying the huge support of the international community for the Northern Ireland peace process.
The news brought a shower of congratulation and acclaim for the two men from all over the world and from almost all political elements in Britain and Ireland. Mr Hume has for years been mentioned as a possible Nobel prize-winner; the inclusion of Mr Trimble came as more of a surprise.
The Norwegian Nobel committee signalled that John Hume's 30-year political career had earned him the honour, declaring: "John Hume has throughout the conflict been the clearest and most consistent of Northern Ireland's political leaders in his work for a peaceful solution. The foundations of the peace agreement signed on Good Friday 1998 reflect principles which he has stood for."
The citation was more specific in relation to Mr Trimble, saying: "As the leader of the traditionally predominant party in Northern Ireland, David Trimble showed great political courage when, at a critical stage of the process, he advocated solutions which led to the peace agreement.'' This was a clear reference to his decision to sign up to the Good Friday Agreement in April, and his work in bringing a majority of Unionist opinion to support the accord.
Mr Trimble said: "It's a great honour but it's not for me personally. I think people should not look at it like that. What was done in terms of achieving an agreement was done by a tremendous amount of people. I'm thinking of my colleagues in the party who have worked so hard, and of the people of Northern Ireland as a whole who have longed for peace to come. And I hope very much that this award does not turn out to be premature because there is still work to be done to secure peace in Northern Ireland."
Mr Hume said he did not see it as an award to himself but as a "very powerful international approval of the peace process in Northern Ireland". He said it was also a strong international approval of all the people of Northern Ireland, adding that it would enormously strengthen the peace process.
President Bill Clinton said John Hume had inspired the nationalist community while David Trimble had taken up the challenge of peace "with rare courage" in negotiating and beginning to implement the Good Friday Agreement.
Tony Blair said: "There could be no more worthy winners of the Nobel Peace Prize than David Trimble and John Hume. This is a recognition of their courage and their qualities of leadership that were so vital in laying the road to peace."
But Ian Paisley Junior, son and spokesman of the Democratic Unionist leader, the Rev Ian Paisley, said: "Once again the Nobel Peace Prize Committee has been demonstrated to be a farce. These people have not delivered peace, nor are they peacemakers."
Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fien leader, said there would have been no peace process but for the courage and vision of Mr Hume, adding: "John never wavered in his commitment to peace. No one deserves this accolade more.''
Prize gladiators, page 2
The path to peace, page 3
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