Pressing concern for Stormont?

Anyone who watched the question and answer session between reporters and the Northern Ireland first and deputy first ministers at the Titanic centre in Belfast earlier this week won't need me to tell them that relations between the top two at Stormont and our local newspapers are far from smooth.

Peter Robinson objected to the Executive having to "sift" its message through the medium of newspapers who, he argued, regard themselves as an alternative form of "opposition".

In an editorial, the Irish News responded that it "has never sought to take on the duties of an opposition group".

Instead it defined its objective as reflecting "the achievements of our elected representatives, whether or not they return our calls" while also holding "them to account for all aspects of their record in public life".

In the light of this latest Stormont media spat, there was an interesting aside at the start of Wednesday's meeting of the Stormont committee that shadows the first and deputy first ministers' office.

The chair, Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt, drew the attention of committee members to an article in last month's Press Gazette reporting that the House of Lords has left the way open for Scotland and Northern Ireland to draw up their own separate regimes on press regulation.

According to the Press Gazette, the royal charter drawn up in the wake of Lord Leveson's inquiry into the press will only apply to England and Wales.

Mr Nesbitt agreed with his committee members that they should seek legal advice about exactly what role Stormont might end up playing in relation to the press.

There is already controversy that the defamation bill that has just made its way through the House of Commons won't apply to Northern Ireland.

Now, across the water, there is confusion about what system might come into force after the majority of newspapers rejected the cross-party Westminster proposal.

However these matters are resolved, local newspaper editors will no doubt be keen to see the detail of any legal advice Mike Nesbitt gets, as the thought of a separate, Stormont-led system of press regulation is likely to send a shiver up their spines