Northern Ireland

What the papers say

Newspapers

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

The papers are divided over the fate of Laurence MacKenzie, the head of Northern Ireland Water.

"Water chief to quit over crisis", says the main headline in the News Letter. According to the Sun, he "has fallen on his sword".

MacKenzie: "Why I'm not quitting" is the contrasting line in the Belfast Telegraph. He tells the paper that he has been under no pressure to resign, except from the media.

The Irish News, meanwhile, suggests that Mr MacKenzie has already stepped down from his job and is trying to negotiate what it calls "an exit package" which one MLA has speculated "could be as much as £500,000".

But the local edition of the Mirror quotes a much lower figure.

There's also much speculation about the local effects of the government's VAT increase.

The Telegraph says some publicans are concerned that it could put them out of business.

The Irish News comments that "the last thing businesses need is another reason for shoppers to rein in their spending".

Price rises

It adds that businesses shouldn't see this as an opportunity to "round up" their prices.

But several papers in London suggest that rounding up has already begun.

The Daily Telegraph reports that text messages on one phone network have increased by 20%, while monthly membership of a gym chain has gone up by 14%.

The Sun advises people how to avoid the VAT rise altogether, by taking advantage of some of the anomalies in the system.

Potato crisps, for example, are subject to the tax, but tortilla chips are not. Milkshake powder is taxed, but a milkshake is not.

And cheesecake is zero rated, but ice cream attracts the full rate of 20%.

The Mirror condemns the increase as "a vicious con". The Guardian calls it a political choice dressed up as economic necessity.

But the Times says that while it's unappealing, it's necessary to restore the public finances. That's a view echoed by the Mail.

Bankruptcy

The papers in Dublin report how a former government minister is facing financial ruin.

Ivan Yates, who was once a Fine Gael minister, has been affected by the collapse of a bookmaking chain he owned with his wife.

The Irish Times reports that the company has been placed in receivership, and Mr Yates has told the paper that he faces bankruptcy.

According to the story, the trouble began just over three years ago, when the economic downturn began to bite.

The Irish Independent reports that Mr Yates personally owes 5m euros and his mobile phone has already been cut off. The paper sees him as another victim of the excesses of the Celtic Tiger.

Finally, the Daily Telegraph reports that two million people, or 6% of the UK workforce, failed to make it to work on Tuesday after the Christmas break.

The paper reckons it cost the economy £302m.

The Mail says that while many were genuinely ill, managers suspect that a lot more than usual were simply trying to extend their holiday.

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