Northern Ireland

What the papers say


Journalist Mike Philpott takes a look at what is making the headlines in Wednesday's newspapers.

All the local papers have something to say about the inquiry into Billy Wright's death - and they are not impressed.

"Tell us something we didn't know" is the main headline in the Belfast Telegraph.

"A Wright shambles", says the Mirror - not in relation to the inquiry, but about the string of failures that enabled the killing to take place.

The News Letter comments that, five years on and at a cost of £30m, the report's conclusions will have surprised few people.

It says questions remain unanswered and the findings "won't silence the conspiracy theorists".

The Irish News says the police and the prison authorities both fare badly, but it has some sympathy for the inquiry, pointing out that the work of the investigating team was hampered by the absence of key documents.

The Guardian reports under its main headline that banks and bankers in England are now potential targets for the Real IRA.

The paper's Ireland Correspondent, Henry McDonald, says the group is attempting to tap into the intense hostility to the banks on both sides of the Irish border.

But he adds that security sources believe the Real IRA does not have the resources to mount a major bombing campaign in England.

The most photographed person in the cross channel papers is George Michael, after he was jailed for two months having crashed his car into a shop while under the influence of drugs.

The headline writers dig into his musical career for clever lines to reflect the story.

"Wham! Michael jailed for eight weeks," says the headline in the Guardian. The Independent urges him to keep the faith, because he will be out in a short time.

But the Sun has the line of the day: "Lock me up before you go go."

Taoiseach Brian Cowen is under fire in the Dublin papers.

His poor performance during an RTE interview has got the country talking.

According to the Irish Times, Mr Cowen blamed it on "hoarseness". But the Fine Gael TD Simon Coveney accused him of "sounding half way between drunk and hung over".

Mr Cowen has described the comment as "a new low in Irish politics".

Whatever the truth of the matter, the paper reckons the damage has been done, after the story was picked up by the international media, including the New York Times and the Washington Post.

The Irish Independent, which claims the Taoiseach was in a Galway hotel bar at 0330 BST, just five hours before the interview took place, comments that "the trouble with the Cowen premiership goes far deeper and has reached a point where citizens are not only angry but frightened".

It says it would be ironic, and perhaps even poetic justice, if Fianna Fail came to grief not on massive economic issues, but on something as trivial as the Taoiseach's bedtime.

Finally, the South African police have been told to shape up or ship out. The Times reports that the police are known just as much for their big tummies and bottoms as they are for crime fighting.

So the minister responsible has told them to go on a diet. In a quote that no minister here would get away with, he says: "Some officers start to balloon as soon as they leave training college".

The paper says stories abound of overweight police officers having to give up chasing pickpockets and drug dealers because they just cannot keep up.

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