Trump and Clinton each have significant ties to Ireland, though not the sort most Irish Americans have come to expect from politicians. Sean Curtin /

As presidential debates go, tonight’s contest between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Donald John Trump is an Irish standout.

Though not a standoff on Irish issues, or matters of acute Irish American concern.

It has been the habit over the years for those writing about the Irish of America to dig into the Irish background, real or imagined, of those seeking the American presidency.

Well, even deep digging is not going to unearth much about Trump’s or Clinton’s Irish roots.

Their family trees are to be found elsewhere, though not far away: with Donald Trump’s mother a Scottish immigrant and Hillary Clinton’s Welsh grandmother.

And yet, both stand out in key respects when it comes to Ireland.

For the first time, two candidates pursuing the Oval Office who do not have readily identifiable Irish ancestry can say they have actually been to the island of Ireland.

In the case of Hillary Clinton, that would be on multiple occasions, and while bearing different job descriptions.

Donald Trump edges ahead of all previous presidential contenders by being an actual owner of Irish property – that being the golf resort that bears his name in Doonbeg, County Clare.

The fact of both candidates having been to Ireland, and having been involved with it over time, might actually enhance the chance of Ireland getting a mention in tonight’s debate at Hofstra University on Long Island, or in the next two scheduled debates.

Indeed, if climate change comes up for a mention this evening Hillary Clinton might be tempted to draw upon a line in a New York Times editorial today which outlined the paper’s views as to why Donald Trump should not be the next president (the paper endorsed Hillary Clinton in an editorial yesterday).

Opined the Times: “Mr. Trump has repeatedly denounced global warming as a ‘hoax,’ although a golf course he owns in Ireland is citing global warming in seeking to build a protective wall against a rising sea.”

American jobs could draw Ireland into the debate.

Mr. Trump has previously criticized U.S. corporate tax rates on the basis that they push U.S. corporations into moving overseas in pursuit of lower tax rates.

He has specifically cited Pfizer and its operation in Ireland in this regard.

In the same context, the recent European Commission ruling on taxes owed by Apple to the Irish government could also enter the verbal fray.

If Hillary Clinton is inclined to extol her foreign policy credentials her work for peace in Northern Ireland, along with her husband, the former president, is an obvious safe harbor.

If nothing else, the visits to Ireland of both candidates underline the fact that Ireland in these times is a place that is far more engaged with the world than it was in the days when the interest or involvement of American presidential wannabes was characterized mostly by expressions of familial or sentimental attachment, or indeed of a desire to help bring peace to the island.

Ireland, one way or the other, is never far out of argument.


This article first appeared in the Irish Echo. For more great stories, visit their website here