Northern Ireland news

Michael Gove can sing The Sash and The Fields of Athenry

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove knows the words of loyalist anthem The Sash. Picture by PA Wire

BRITISH Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove can sing both The Sash and The Fields of Athenry, it emerged yesterday during a Westminster debate.

The high-ranking Tory's repertoire of rousing unionist and nationalist anthems came to light as MPs discussed the implication of Brexit.

Ahead of Mr Gove's meeting with European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic, North Antrim MP Ian Paisley urged the minister to push for changes to the protocol that has led to regulatory checks at Northern Ireland's ports on goods arriving from Britain.

The DUP MP challenged the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to match his words with deeds, citing his professed familiarity with the lyrics of loyalist favourite The Sash.

"(Mr Gove) boasts of his unionist credentials, indeed he even boasted once in my local paper that he could sing The Sash," Mr Paisley said.

"Today he has the chance to protect the union in his meeting with Maroš Šef?ovi? – will he make clear that the protocol is causing societal and economic damage to the union, and will he press on with the alternative arrangements that he previously supported and signed up to?"

Mr Gove acknowledged Mr Paisley's remarks and revealed that his repertoire extended further.

In a nod to Scotland's Six Nations victory over England, he replied: "I do have a formidable singing record but I can also sing The Fields of Athenry and Flower of Scotland, not to mention Swing Low, Sweet Chariot - though of course the last of those songs was perhaps sung with a little less fervour last Saturday than is normally the case.

"I am a convinced unionist, I do believe in the strength of the United Kingdom, all of us working together, and I look forward to working with him and all representatives from Northern Ireland to ensure our United Kingdom can flourish in the future."

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