Northern Ireland news

Secretary of state Brandon Lewis has Valentine's Day date with Northern Ireland

Secretary of State Brandon Lewis in Belfast. Picture by Hugh Russell

IT was fitting that it was on St Valentine's Day that Northern Ireland got to see what sort of secretary of state the wind had blown in.

The Hallmark holiday is after all less assiduously celebrated in long-term relationships and the region has had little chance to `go steady' with its Westminster appointee in recent times.

The latest arrival on the first gusts of Storm Dennis is the third suitor in nine months and he arrived to a somewhat jaded reception, with Julian Smith's 'it's not you, it's the PM' Dear John-style departure still heavy in the air.

Brandon Lewis chose the Centre for Security Information Technologies (CSIT) at Northern Ireland Science Park on Queen's Island to make landfall, next to the inauspicious `White Star House' in the Titanic Quarter.

In retrospect it was perhaps not the best backdrop for the big reveal, not because of the heroic failure with which the White Star Line has become synonymous since the famous 1912 sinking, but because the number of grey-haired white men in dark suits at the science park made spotting what was essentially a blind date something of a challenge.

Like all first dates in the 21st century there had been a fair amount of furious web searches in advance which threw up information riddled the inevitable errors that come with such fact checks (For what it's worth the former barrister is a Queens Park Rangers fan, not Millwall).

As first impressions went he did all the right things, complimenting his new partner on how "warm and beautiful" it is, what "an absolute honour" and how "amazing" it was to be matched up by the cabinet reshuffle and careful to speak respectfully of his predecessor who is, he insisted, "a good friend of mine".

He even went so far as to use the 'l' word on the first date, albeit in the past tense: "I've loved it whenever I've been here."

In any event is must have gone well, because The Irish News can exclusively reveal - reader, Mr Lewis decided to spend the night.

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