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Landmark Northern Irish visit to Zurich

The delegation said Zurich was a model of best practice Keystone Archive

The first ever all-party delegation from the Northern Ireland Assembly has been visiting Zurich to look at the region's public transport system.

This content was published on February 1, 2002 - 15:45

The visit came as part of a series of fact-finding missions to European cities by the assembly's Committee for Regional Development, which represents all sides of Northern Ireland's complex political spectrum.

Social Democrat and Labour Party assembly member, Alban Maginness, told swissinfo that Zurich, which is similar in size to the greater Belfast conurbation, is a "model" of best practice in public transport worldwide.

"For many years there was very little investment in our public transport system," explained Maginness, who chairs the committee. "We are now producing a ten-year transportation strategy and the public transport element of that will be vitally important."

Political will

Despite continuing sporadic violence in Northern Ireland, the power-sharing body, which was born out of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, remains an achievement of political will.

Following years of conflict between pro-British unionist forces and pro-Ireland nationalist forces, the assembly is the first workable solution to have appealed to both sides.

"Despite the political differences that exist in the committee and the assembly, we are determined to do our work and get the best possible results," said Maginness. "This is a historic visit, a historic visit to Zurich and to Switzerland in particular."

Maginness highlighted Switzerland's own political system, which has traditionally respected the differences between diverse cultures and language groups, as a model for Northern Ireland to follow.

"Given the history of Switzerland and the unique political situation that arose out of the historic differences, we see at first hand a model for conflict resolution which is helpful for us to try and resolve our own problems," he noted.

by Tom O'Brien

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