Northern Ireland

Newspaper headlines: RHI and Mercedes-chewing rats

News Letter Image copyright News Letter

Politics and the RHI scandal again dominate the front pages of the Belfast Telegraph, The Irish News, News Letter and Daily Mirror on Wednesday.

The Irish News has a picture of an industrial yard in County Fermanagh with "a row of biomass boilers" inside.

The paper says when it visited the premises last week, the door was open while the boilers burned inside.

The owner said it was for an industrial process and was not an abuse of the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme.

The Belfast Telegraph says that, for the second time in less than a year, taxpayers will have to foot the bill for MLAs who will not be returning to Stormont after an assembly election.

More than £1m was handed out to 33 former MLAs after last May's election, it says, as each are entitled to payouts of up to £80,000 to help them adjust to life outside politics.

This time around, there will be 18 guaranteed payments as the number of MLAs is cut from 108 to 90, with other payouts for MLAs not standing this time or who lose their seats. Inside, the paper lists the MLAs given payouts in 2016 and what they received.

The News Letter focuses on DUP special adviser (SPAD) John Robinson's response to allegations by Jonathan Bell in relation to the RHI scheme.

Mr Robinson has admitted his father-in-law is an RHI claimant, but said he had never advised anyone to join the scheme.

Inside, the paper reports on DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds' comments in the House of Commons that the 2 March election is about the Troubles and Sinn Féin's desire to see former soldiers prosecuted, rather than about the RHI scheme.

Brexit accusation

The Mirror leads with Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams' accusation that former first minister Arlene Foster has betrayed the Northern Ireland electorate over Brexit.

Mr Adams says it was Mrs Foster's "duty" to uphold the wishes of the majority in Northern Ireland who voted to remain in the EU.

Moving away from politics, the Belfast Telegraph, Irish News and News Letter all report on the brother and sister critically injured by a car after getting off a school bus in County Antrim.

The Belfast Telegraph also carries an interview with Joanne McGibbon, whose husband Michael was murdered by dissident republicans in north Belfast last year.

Image caption Joanne McGibbon, whose husband Michael was murdered by dissident republicans

Joanne took her four children to Disney World in Florida as a Christmas surprise. She says she and Michael had often talked about taking the children to the resort, and it was bittersweet making the trip without him.

Also on the subject of dissident republican violence, The Irish News reports that the bomb defused by the army in the Poleglass area of west Belfast at the weekend is believed to have been of a type not previously used in Northern Ireland.

The paper's security correspondent Alison Morris says this may have contributed to the length of time it took to make the device safe.

Bail 'outrage'

Meanwhile, the News Letter quotes former senior police officer Norman Baxter as saying there should be "public outrage" over the judiciary's handling of the case against 40-year-old Damien McLauglin.

The Ardboe man, who is out on bail charged in connection with the murder of prison officer David Black, has not been seen by police since November.

Finally, the paper has the story of the Matchett family from Waringstown whose Mercedes Benz parked in their driveway has been left unusable - by rats.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Rats have been in a Waringstown family's car

The rodents have chewed through electrical wiring and seats after apparently getting access through the exhaust and boot. James Matchett said he encountered one of them while vacuuming the vehicle.

It's enough to drive you round the Benz.