John Hume, David Trimble

Nobel Peace Prize 1998

John Hume

(1937-)

Civil rights campaigner and European

In the Easter of 1998, Northern Ireland's largest political parties signed a peace agreement which became known as the Good Friday agreement. In the autumn of 1998, the Nobel Committee decided to award the Peace Prize to two persons who were at the heart of the peace process in the civil-war-torn province.One of the two was the Catholic leader of the moderate Social Democratic and Labour Party, John Hume, regarded by many as the principal architect behind the peace agreement. After having joined the Northern Irish civil rights movement in the late 1960s, he became convinced that nationalism was a declining force in the new Europe. In his view, Northern Ireland needed extended self-government with powers reasonably divided between the population groups: better relations would have to be established between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and between London and Dublin. Hume devoted a great deal of energy to drawing the leader of the IRA, Gerry Adams, and the British Government, into the negotiations.

David Trimble

(1942-)

Protestant and seeker of compromise

David Trimble, the leader of Northern Ireland's Protestant party, the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), was known for a long time for his implacable stance towards the Catholics. But only a few weeks after taking over as party leader in 1995, he launched discussions with his political opponents in search of compromise. Trimble sat down at the negotiating table with the Prime Minister of Ireland, the old arch-enemy Sinn Fein, and the British. In April 1998 he was one of the signatories to a peace agreement which he persuaded a UUP majority to support. The Good Friday agreement entailed extended self-government for Northern Ireland under which a reasonable degree of influence was secured for both population groups. The penal code would be reviewed, imprisoned terrorists would be released, and unlawful weapons would be destroyed.The Peace Prize encouraged Trimble to take further steps in the peace process after he had taken over as First Minister in Northern Ireland's coalition government in November 1999.