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Himself Alone: David Trimble and the Ordeal Of Unionism [Paperback]

Dean Godson
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
RRP: 30.00
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Book Description

12 Aug 2011

The comprehensive and groundbreaking biography of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning politician, one of the most influential and important men in Irish political history.

How did David Trimble, the ‘bête noire’ of Irish nationalism and ‘bien pensant’ opinion, transform himself into a peacemaker? How did this unfashionable, ‘petit bourgeois’ Orangeman come to win a standing ovation at the Labour Party conference? How, indeed, did this taciturn academic with few real intimates succeed in becoming the leader of the least intellectual party in the United Kingdom, the Ulster Unionists? And how did he carry them with him, against the odds, to make an ‘historic compromise’ with Irish nationalism?

These are just a few of the key questions about David Trimble, one of the unlikeliest and most complicated leaders of our times. Both his admirers and his detractors within the unionist family are, however, agreed on one thing: the Good Friday agreement could not have been done without him. Only he had the skills and the command of the issues to negotiate a saleable deal, and only he possessed the political credibility within the broader unionist community to lend that agreement legitimacy once it had been made.

David Trimble’s achievements are extraordinary, and Dean Godson, chief leader writer of the ‘Daily Telegraph’, was granted exclusive and complete access while writing this book.



Product details

  • Paperback: 1024 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (12 Aug 2011)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0007179995
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007179992
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 12.8 x 5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 159,300 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

‘A great act of political reporting – instant history, if you like – about the drama of Northern Ireland's search for peace.’ Andrew Marr, Daily Telegraph

‘This is a perceptive, deeply informed account of the entire peace process…Well written, fair and full of insights, it is destined to become part of the history it relates.’ Alan Judd, Sunday Telegraph

‘This is much more than a biography: it is a moment-by-moment guide through history, a book that will become a key reference point in years to come, and is surprisingly entertaining now.’ Alan Ruddock, Sunday Times

‘A comprehensive and essential history.’ Henry Patterson, Spectator

‘Absorbing…A fascinating portrait of Trimble.’ Neasa MacErlean, Observer

‘Masterly…impressive…dispassionate…Not only is this book the definitive account of the modern history of Northern Ireland, it is also as good a guide to its embattled inhabitants as one could wish.’ Daily Mail

‘Dean Godson’s meticulously researched biography offers an authoritative guide to the province's painful path to peace. It is a feast of eavesdropped political conversations.’ New Statesman

Mail on Sunday

'A triumph of scholarship, readabilitiy and acute political analysis....a tremendously impressive work' --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Only Dean Godson, the tough, savvy chief leader writer of the London Daily Telegraph, with his unparalleled contacts on all sides of the Northern Ireland divide, could have crafted this subtle, exceedingly penetrating portrait of the most unlikely of the Ulster peacemakers. Much superior to anything else now available on this crucial subject.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Well told facts that reveal a lot 5 May 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about David Trimble and the politicians who have an impact on our lives right now and will have for many years to come.
Well packaged and speedy delivery meant I could enjoy the book all the more.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Political Biography of the Year 25 Nov 2005
Format:Paperback
Dean Godson's book deserves to be read by anyone thinking of entering politics. Even if you do not have the slightest interest in Ulster you should consider reading it as a political parable for our time. It is a British political version of 'Citizen Kane'. Trimble comes across as a decent man that is led astray by a combination of cunning and temptation. In fact, Trimble was so obsessed, over a peroid of thirty years, with the cause of restoring devolved government to Northern Ireland that, in the end, he was willing to bargain with terrorists and in doing so lost his constituency of support.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hostile, exhausting account of Irish Peace Process 4 May 2006
By Hugh Claffey - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
During the negotiations which preceded the peaceful transition to majority rule in South Africa, the ANC leadership were continuously reminded that their struggle had not achieved victory, merely a place at the negotiating table, and therefore they needed to make compromises rather than speeches. The person doing this was Joe Slovo, the only white member of the ANC ruling counsel. As I read this book 800 page book about the Northern Ireland peace process, I felt they need a Joe Slovo or two.

The book centres around David Trimble, the leader of the largest Unionist party, who took great risks in reaching the compromise which became the Good Friday Agreement. He was constantly buffeted by his own community who felt he was being duped by Sinn Fein and bullied or flattered by the UK and Irish governments. His ability to (marginally) survive his parties chaotic decision making process was Houdini-like. This book seems to indicate, however, that the parties to the agreement rarely negotiated face-to-face, rather they stated positions to the governments, who try to broker and barter the deals - actually it has been a sequence of deals. The sheer physical and mental exhaustion of the process is very well conveyed. Whether your view is that Sinn Fein were duplicitous about decommissioning until it was too late to save the agreement or that the Unionists could never really stomach sharing power, it is clear that this process was allowed to continue on the glimmer of hope and beyond the point of any consistency or even logic. Sinn Fein do not emerge well from this account, The SDLP are completely ignored, the DUP are seen as partisan, hypocritical schemers, but perhaps the worst venom is directed at Tony Blair who is seen as claiming consistency and yet facilitates backsliding by Sinn Fein whenever he encounters it. This at a time when he was consciously joining George Bush's coalition of the willing against Terrorism.

I believe Godson's scepticism about Trimble's negotiations and his hostility to the process and players takes up too much of the book. I agree with his analysis of the defects of the prisoner releases, the Patton commission and of the Executive Council, however he sees no real distinction between the Irish Government, the SDLP and Sinn Fein. He cannot see any reason for the Irish hostility to the suspension of the Assembly and ultimately he sees both governments cringing and compromising lest there be a return to violence. He is no more forgiving about Trimble - he disparages his negotiating tactics as ineffective and/or overblown, he says that his lack of personal warmth verges on `political autism' and then claims that his lack of need for human interaction is what allowed him to survive as leader of a divided party for so long!

I started to wonder why Trimble allowed this author such access, when it was plain his views were so critical. I came to the conclusion that there was sometime quite amateurish about the Trimble approach - he is unafraid to be shown `warts and all', sure that he will be vindicated by History. While this may be commendable, I don't think it is effective leadership, you need to make your case consistently and authoritatively, you need to surround yourself with a strong team of committed operators - criticism will come in spades, without having to seek it out. Trimbles approach to party organisation and to influencing/propaganda were haphazard and ineffective, and I think this was to the detriment of his own cause and people.

I found Goodson's 800 pages very tough going. His style is journalistic and it is quite effective at reflecting contemporary moods. There are lapses, as you might expect in so long a work- eg. Brian Keenan, is mentioned first on p 601 without any reference to who he is; the participants who are known to be gay (Peter Mandelson and Stephen King) are both described as being `flamboyant'; eventually anyone who agrees with Trimble becomes called a `Trimbelista'. However I do think its length and seriousness did justice to the subject, but its point of view is sceptical/hostile (`Trimblecontra'?) and a better analysis would probably be obtained from Dr. Paul Bew ( a `Timbelista).

I believe History will judge Trimble kindly, I believe that any Unionist leader who negotiated a change of this magnitude risked the wrath of his followers ( his predecessor, James Molyneaux , risked no negotiations and achieved nothing); I believe he made the case for `defanging' Sinn Fein and was the only person in the process who could make them decommission - which they did grudgingly and too late to save the Good Friday agreement. He showed that Unionists are capable to contemplating the grand compromise and taking the painful steps this necessitates.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding read 21 Dec 2012
By AnnH - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
A riveting and fascinating volume on the life and work of David Trimble, his strengths and weaknesses, his achievements and let downs. One of the best political books in my collection, very well written and well paced. Highly recommended.
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