Hillary Clinton’s opponents often ask what she ever did for Northern Ireland. Just consider the below points, which her campaign makes.
She and husband Bill Clinton were the first ever presidential couple to give a hoot about Ireland, ancestral pleasantries aside. They broke the 220-year mold of taking Britain’s word for Irish issues and helped create the peace process.
As First Lady, Hillary directly supported the Northern Ireland peace process by engaging women’s groups, bringing them into the process and setting the foundation for a more durable peace. She went to tough sectors in Belfast to meet working-class women from both communities and helped empower key voices for peace.
Clinton helped lay the groundwork for cross-community parties such as the Women’s Coalition in the decisive years when the peace process was being bedded down. Once the peace talks began, she was influential in ensuring the peace accords addressed equality based on gender, religion, and sexual orientation. She visited Northern Ireland five times, beginning in 1995 when she visited with President Clinton in what was described as a turning point for the conflict.
As United States Senator from New York, Clinton represented New York’s vibrant Irish-American community. She visited the Republic of Ireland on her first trip in the Senate, and Northern Ireland on her second trip. She worked with community leaders, met with Irish leaders every year she was a senator and had an intern in her office from Northern Ireland every year.
Clinton was a member of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, where she defended human rights and religious tolerance in Europe. She also continuously supported comprehensive immigration reform and sponsored the Immigrant Children’s Health Improvement Act in the Senate, which later became law and allows immigrant children and pregnant women to obtain Medicaid.
As Secretary of State, she ensured Ireland was high on the U.S. foreign policy priority list. She traveled to Northern Ireland in 2009, urging Stormont to complete the process of devolution, which contributed to the Hillsborough Agreement in 2010. She also visited Ireland north and south in December 2012. During this trip, she spoke to the Northern Ireland Assembly and pledged that the United States will stand behind Northern Ireland as it continues its work toward lasting peace and stability. She also pledged to work with the Irish government on shoring up their economy.
She appointed a special economic envoy for Northern Ireland, which helped regenerate the local economy by securing new investment in Northern Ireland, and worked behind the scenes, continuing to encourage Northern Ireland’s leaders and promote the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.
As a private citizen, Clinton was inducted into the Irish America magazine Hall of Fame in 2015 for her contribution to Northern Ireland peace. Prior to this, she had received countless awards and honors for her role in Ireland and advocacy on behalf of Irish America including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Worldwide Ireland Funds.
As president, it is obvious Clinton will continue to fight for issues that are important to the Irish American community.
* Originally published in October 2016.