Northern Ireland

What the papers say

Newspapers

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

Sammy Wilson is the man in the spotlight locally.

He appears in his usual guise on the front of the News Letter, talking to reporters at Stormont after unveiling the draft budget.

But on the front of the Belfast Telegraph, the paper's cartoonist has turned him into a wartime spiv, opening his raincoat to show items for sale, including land, property and buildings.

"Sammy's big sell-off gamble" is the paper's description.

The Irish News reports that a significant chunk of the money he hopes to raise depends on a recovery in the property market.

But he gets a reasonably good report card from the leader writers.

The Telegraph says Mr Wilson was once seen as "the clown prince of the DUP" but he's "proving to be an able finance minister".

As for the budget, it describes it as a "curate's egg" - digestible only because there's "little else to offer".

The Irish News says it's not the slash-and-burn package that had been feared, but "it's difficult to put a gloss on cutbacks".

The News Letter reckons Mr Wilson and his colleagues "have made the best of a bad hand", while the Mirror says that - on the face of it - it doesn't look too bad.

Dire outlook

In Dublin, an opinion poll suggests a dire outlook for Fianna Fail.

The Ipsos/MORI poll for the Irish Times shows that support for the main governing party is at a record low, on 17%.

Sinn Fein has apparently made gains, while the big winners, according to the poll, are Fine Gael, up 6 points on 30%.

But, as the Irish Times points out, the worst aspect for Brian Cowen is the indication that satisfaction with the taoiseach is at an all-time low and satisfaction with his government is at just 8%.

The Irish Independent says Fine Gael is in the driving seat, and if the poll were translated into votes, Fianna Fail would lose 50 seats in the Dail.

It puts Fine Gael's success down to what it calls "the Noonan factor" - the commanding performance of its finance spokesman, Michael Noonan, on the budget and the international bail-out.

The paper's front page picture is a striking image featuring members of a theatre company in Cork, who dressed as ghosts and walked through the streets with symbols of Ireland's over-consumption, including an overloaded shopping trolley and a mangy-looking Celtic tiger.

Christmas Island tragedy

A shocking figure dominates the front pages in London.

It shows a flimsy wooden boat packed with asylum seekers running into rocks on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean, costing the lives of at least 28 of those on board.

The Independent calls it "the tragedy that shames Australia" and says the country's hardline refugee policies have been blamed for what happened on the coast of one of its territories.

The Guardian says that after a 6,000 mile journey, the victims died within sight of safety.

The Sun reports how a doctor from Larne headed the rescue mission to help the survivors. It says David McIlroy joined Australia's Flying Doctor service three years ago.

Finally, a survey of our kitchen cupboards - reported in the Daily Telegraph - has identified 11 food items that will never be used.

Top of the list is a packet of icing sugar that may have been there for a year or more.

Then comes a packet of casserole mix, followed by curry powder and an unopened jar of pickled onions.

The Telegraph's leader writer is saddened by the appearance of icing sugar on the list, but cheers the inclusion of pickled onions, which "should follow the pickled egg into un-mourned extinction".

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites