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US Presidential election: The young Northern Ireland activist doing her bit to put Hillary Clinton back in White House

By Claire Williamson

Published 04/11/2016

Cliona McCarney with life-size cutout of Hillary Clinton
Cliona McCarney with life-size cutout of Hillary Clinton
Cliona McCarney campaigning for the Democrat

Meet the Northern Ireland woman playing a part in history - and hoping to bring back what she learns to help Stormont.

Cliona McCarney from Belfast has swapped campaigning for the SDLP to campaigning in the US election.

The 22-year-old has been based at the Democratic Party headquarters in Virginia for the past fortnight, and will stay until polling on Tuesday.

She is working with Hillary Clinton's campaign, bringing in volunteers from all around the country. But Cliona is no stranger to American politics.

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In April President Barack Obama directly answered her question at a London Town Hall event. She was there as part of the Young Leaders UK programme when Obama selected her to ask the first question.

Now she is helping the fight for Clinton to become Obama's successor.

"It's very, very exciting and a wonderful opportunity to be here," Cliona told the Belfast Telegraph.

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"I've always loved her. And being involved in politics at home, I'm very passionate about women in politics. I really think it would be hugely symbolic for the first female President to be elected. Hillary is an incredibly qualified candidate, the most qualified there's ever been."

Cliona believes Clinton will keep NI firmly in her thoughts if elected.

"What the Clintons have done for the peace process has been huge and I know a President Hillary Clinton would keep Northern Ireland on her radar in the White House, and we certainly need that," she said.

"America still has a huge role to play in our evolving peace process, whether it's sending another diplomat like Richard Haass in our next inevitable phase of crisis talks or whether it's playing a role for direct investment."

The campaign was dealt a blow by the email scandal. Just 11 days before the election the FBI announced it was checking new correspondence linked to its investigation into Hillary Clinton's private email server.

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But Cliona insists it has "galvanised' supporters. "It's full-steam ahead; there is a lot of anger about the FBI announcement. They think it's a very politically-timed announcement.

"It will probably galvanise Democrats, and from my perspective here in Virginia, we have had a real surge. It has galvanised supporters to get out and start knocking doors.

"I'm sill very confident that Hillary will be elected, but we are not getting complacent."

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