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Doubts over Joe Biden's running mate Kamala Harris' reported links to Co Antrim

Senator Kamala Harris has been chosen by Joe Biden as his running mate. Picture by AP Photo/John Locher

DOUBTS have been cast over online claims that a Californian senator named as Joe Biden's running mate in the forthcoming US presidential election may have links to Co Antrim.

Kamala Harris (55) is the first black woman and South Asian American to be chosen to compete on a major party's presidential ticket.

She joins Mr Biden, who is a proud Irish American and visited Ireland in 2017 during his tenure as vice president. As one of the party's most prominent figures, she quickly became a top contender for the number two spot after her own White House campaign ended.

While the first-term senator is of Indian-Jamaican heritage, it has been suggested she may have also Irish links.

Social media reports have claimed one of her ancestors, Hamilton Brown, may have been a slave owner on the Caribbean island of Jamaica, but was originally from Co Antrim.

It has been claimed Ms Harris' father has previously written about the family's alleged link to Mr Brown.

The online resource, Snopes claims Ms Harris is "descended from Irish slave owner Hamilton Brown, the namesake of Brown’s Town in Jamaica, who recruited massive numbers of Irish migrants to Jamaica to work on his sugar plantations after the British empire abolished slavery".

It adds that he "was born, likely in 1776, in Co Antrim, in what is now Northern Ireland".

But while the website makes the claim it also says they have "been unable to verify that a line of descent exists between the modern-day Harris family and the 19th-century slave owner".

"As such, the claim that an ancestor of Sen. Harris owned slaves in Jamaica remains unproven. If evidence emerges that verifies that line of descent, we will update this fact check accordingly."

Professor Liam Kennedy, director of the Clinton Institute at University College Dublin, also said he was unsure about the viability of the Co Antrim links.

"I wouldn't play this as a romantic diaspora story - most of the material that has surrounded this material has been puerile, but unfortunately that is where a lot of American social media is around politics today," he told BBC Talkback.

He said there was "no strong evidentiary line of descent from the Irish slave holder through to Harris today despite what Harris' own father has said, in other words this is a very complex story."

Mr Biden named Ms Harris as his running mate on Tuesday.

In choosing her, Mr Biden is embracing a former rival from the Democratic primary who is familiar with the pressures of a national campaign.

Mr Biden, who spent eight years as president Barack Obama's vice president, has spent months weighing who would fill that same role in his White House.

He pledged in March to select a woman as his vice president, easing frustration among Democrats that the presidential race would centre on two white men in their 70s.

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