Close reflects on American visit

AS details of the US President’s second visit to Ireland emerged last week, the Deputy Leader of the Alliance Party was preparing to visit one of Mr. Clinton’s favourite states.

For Lisburn councillor Seamus Close, accompanied by fellow councillor Richard Good and South Down Alliance representative Dr. Anne-Marie Cunningham, jetted off to Boston’s Harvard University on July 18 to participate in a week long conference on conflict resolution.

The conference – entitled ‘The New Political Architecture: A Workshop for Leaders from Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain’ – was organised by the John F. Kennedy School of Government and the Foundation for Civil Society.

And apart from the attendance of Mr. Close, the Lagan Valley constituency was also represented by Democratic Unionist Party councillor Edwin Poots and the Ulster Democratic Party’s Gary McMichael.

A wide range of issues associated with the conflict in Northern Ireland – which Mr. Close described as “extremely useful” – were discussed at length during a series of workshop sessions, lectures and seminars.

However, although the conference was in “no way” linked to the workings of the new shadow assembly, Mr. Close said it was good to see a “great level of enthusiasm” from the Northern Ireland politicians.

“I think that by moving our politicians away from the political cauldron of Northern Ireland – and into a different political environment – we have the opportunity to recognise each other as human beings,” explained the shadow assemblyman.

“Even though my visit to Harvard was not connected to the workings of the new assembly, it was still good to see so many of our politicians who, I believe, were genuinely interested in what the conference had to offer.

“We met with political activists from around the world and I believe we gained some valuable experiences that we can use in relation to our own situation.

“I was very pleased with the way things went at Harvard and I welcome any attempts to address the issue of conflict resolution in Northern Ireland,” he added.

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