Northern Ireland

New first minister rejects idea of new football anthem

Arlene Foster
Image caption Arlene Foster has rejected the idea of God Save the Queen being dropped as the anthem of the Northern Ireland football team

The new first minister has rejected the idea of God Save the Queen being dropped as the anthem of the Northern Ireland football team.

Arlene Foster said she does not want the issue to be "politicised".

Stormont authorities have rejected an attempt by the Irish Football Association (IFA) to place responsibility for the issue with the assembly.

An IFA spokesman said it was "a matter for the politicians".

However, a spokesperson for the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister told the BBC that "the playing of a national anthem, or any song at football matches, is a matter for the organisation involved."

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Image caption Northern Ireland have qualified for the European Championships in France

Renewed calls for a fresh anthem in Northern Ireland follow initial support by MPs to the idea of the England team adopting an official national anthem.

God Save the Queen, the national anthem for the UK as a whole, is currently used for England during most sporting events.

However, Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins believes England needs its own anthem and presented his case in the House of Commons as a 10 minute rule motion.

His English National Anthem Bill was adopted by the House.

The Scotland and Wales football teams have their own anthems but like England, Northern Ireland uses God Save the Queen.

Athletics

However, when Northern Ireland athletes compete in the Commonwealth Games, the song Danny Boy is used.

Arlene Foster, who became first minister on Monday, rejects the idea of change for football.

She told BBC One programme The View: "We have a national anthem, as you know, but I'm also very conscious that we don't want to get into the politicisation of sport because sport is something that unites people. Right across Northern Ireland people are getting behind our sporting heroes.

"We have a national anthem. I don't think there's any need to tinker with that, but it's something we're all looking forward to into the summer and the sporting exploits of our heroes.

"I don't see any reason to change it. I understand the 10 minute rule bill is in relation to the English football team in any event and its not really in relation to the Northern Ireland football team, but as I say I don't want to get into politicising sport because it's something that unites everybody."

When asked for its view, Sinn Féin said that it supports the idea of an all-Ireland team.

The west Belfast MLA, Pat Sheehan, said: "On its own, it's not going to make a massive amount of difference [changing the anthem], but there are a range of options that the IFA could put in place, that would make Windsor Park a more welcoming sports stadium for all of the community.

"I feel there is still a chill there [Windsor Park] and I think the playing of God Save the Queen plays into that."

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Image caption Ms Foster will travel to the White House with Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness for St Patick's Day

Also speaking on The View, the first minister said she will be using the St Patrick's Day visit to the United States to sell Northern Ireland.

Ms Foster will be accompanied by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness for the now traditional engagement at the White House.

She said the visit, in March, is an opportunity to promote the economy.

"I think we should use it to talk about the economy of Northern Ireland and the fact that we are going to lower corporation tax in April 2018, because that gives us a great opportunity to talk about a fresh start," she said.

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