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SDLP's De Faoite inspired by Clintons' Belfast visit hits US election trail

By Kylie Noble

Published 21/10/2016

Canvassing: Seamas De Faoite
Canvassing: Seamas De Faoite

A student who attended the Clintons' 1995 Belfast Christmas lights switch-on is jetting off to America to campaign for Hillary Clinton in the final days of her push for the White House.

Seamas De Faoite is travelling to southern California and Nevada to help the Democrats canvass voters.

The 24-year-old is heading to America with 14 other activists, through the Party of European Socialists (PES).

He was just four when the Clintons made their historic visit to Northern Ireland.

One of the enduring images was of Bill Clinton switching on Belfast's Christmas lights, watched by thousands.

"I was very young when President Clinton and Hillary visited Belfast to turn on the Christmas lights, but I do clearly remember being very cold outside City Hall," Seamas said.

"I had some sense of my parents' excitement. They were acutely aware that an American President had just staked his reputation on the peace process, and no one else at that kind of level had done that before.

"They saw an opportunity for my generation to live without the violence of the past."

Explaining his reasons for joining the Democrats' push for the presidency, Seamas added: "I hope that in some small way I'll get to repay the debt that my generation owes the Clintons for their work in supporting the peacemakers."

Seamas has been active in party politics since the age of 14.

He chairs the Belfast youth wing of the SDLP, which is a member of the PES in the European Parliament.

The PES and the California Democratic Party hope the activists' time on the presidential campaign trail will help centre-left parties in Europe win their own elections.

"The past few years have not been great for the European centre-left," Seamas said.

"In the context of the Brexit (vote), that is all the more important for the SDLP.

"Across all levels of the party, we have been closely involved with the PES in an effort to secure Northern Ireland's place in Europe."

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Seamas also explained why he was enormously concerned about the possibility of a Donald Trump presidency.

"Donald Trump has threatened to imprison her if he wins - that's not the hallmark of anyone who believes in a free and open democracy," he said.

The activist believes Hillary Clinton is a far better option for the White House.

"In the context of a political world where soundbites and flashy imagery are so popular, here is a candidate who gets excited about the facts, about data and about what policy made in Washington means for people across the United States and the world," he said.

"She's shown that right throughout her career, and it hasn't made her popular because some people see her as being over-cautious.

"But in the Oval Office, a temperament like that can make all the difference."

Belfast Telegraph

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