Northern Ireland

Weekly newspaper headlines: Surprise MOTs and the man who crossed Europe by tractor

Portadown Times front page Friday 27th January 2017 Image copyright Portadown Times
South Belfast News front page Friday 27th Nov Image copyright Belfast Media Group
Mid-Ulster Mail front page Friday 27th January Image copyright Mid-Ulster Mail
Fermanagh Herald front page Friday 27th Jan 2016 Image copyright Fermanagh Herald
Coleraine Chronicle front page Friday 27th Jan 2017 Image copyright Coleraine Chronicle
Newry Reporter front page Friday 27th Jan 2017 Image copyright Newry Reporter

An elderly man's account of being the victim of a "disgraceful" attack, birds making a noise in County Tyrone and a man who travelled over 1,000 miles across Europe on a tractor - they're all among the headlines in our local paper round-up this week.

But first off, watch out "boy racers" - you could be hauled off for a surprise MOT test.

The Mid-Ulster Mail reports that the new initiative saw 21 cars get hit with out-of-the-blue inspections in Cookstown and Magherafelt, leading to a number of fines and a court day for one driver.

The move by PSNI and motor authorities came in response to reports of anti-social driving, but the paper says that many took to Facebook to complain that they were hauled off for an inspection despite their cars having no faults.

Could we see more of these surprise MOTs in the future?

Image caption Surprise MOTs: Coming to an anti-social driver near you?

Drivers in County Down also have problems, this time of a parking nature.

The Newry Reporter says a city centre trader is up in arms over plans to hike up on-street parking charges.

"Enough is enough" is the headline, with businessman Jack Murphy accusing Stormont policies of "driving people away from the city centre" and "failing Newry".

Crossing over to the west, one driver has been disqualified from driving - after it was discovered he hadn't carried a valid licence for 20 years.

The Fermanagh Herald reports that the 71-year-old in question had collided with the pillar of a house and said he couldn't remember what happened.

A court heard that the man's GP had suggested he "had a bit of a stroke". The elderly man, from Kesh, was fined £400 and disqualified for six months.

Image caption The future of the South West Acute Hospital was the subject of a heated meetings, according to the Fermanagh Herald

The paper also looks at the future of health services in the area, with the South West Acute Hospital the subject of a "heated public meeting" in Enniskillen.

The meeting, which no constituency MLAs attended the paper adds, was part of a consultation on what changes to the health service could mean to the local hospital.

Meanwhile, the South Belfast News this week leads with a sickening account from a 72-year-old man who was beaten on the street in broad daylight.

Charlie Hill was driving in his car when a "man came to the door and started roaring and shouting" before "battering" him.

Charlie, who was left with head and jaw injuries, added: "I didn't know him from a bar of soap. I have never been hit so hard in my life and I played hurley long before a helmet was required."

The victim's daughter, who came across him on the street shortly after the attack, said: "It wasn't a hijacking because his wallet and that was still in the car. It's just disgraceful that pensioners aren't even safe in their own streets anymore"

Elsewhere in the paper - can you help find a long-lost brother?

Wheelchair-access protest

The South Belfast News reports on appeal from 77-year-old Gerald Marcootes, a Canadian, who visited Belfast to try to track down his brother, John Millar.

Gerald said their father was a wrestler in Belfast in the 1920s before moving to Canada. "I doubt there was many wrestlers living in Belfast so I would like to think someone would remember him."

After his half-brother was born, his father returned to Ireland with John. Now, Gerald is trying to track him down.

Up on the north coast, are "jobs in jeopardy?"

It's the question posed by the front page of the Coleraine Chronicle, with a report the town could miss out on 50 jobs if a new discount store is not given the go-ahead for a retail park.

Coleraine traders, however, say the Home Bargains store will affect the town centre and that the company should look at a more central site for the store.

Store access is also a hot topic elsewhere in the newspaper, after a man carried his wheelchair-bound mother through the doors of a building society in protest at the lack of a wheelchair ramp.

Mark McGregor, from Portstewart, said he was forced to carry his mother up the steps for an appointment.

The paper reports that Halifax had asked his mother, Sylvia Simpson, to travel to Ballymena for the appointment instead. Previously she had to conduct her appointments with staff on the street.

Image copyright SPL
Image caption Woodpeckers are making some noise in Tyrone says the Mid-Ulster Mail

The front page lead of the Portadown Times is dedicated to anti-social behaviour, under the headline: "Efforts to stamp out trouble continue".

The paper says that the PSNI od expected to maintain a zero tolerance approach in the Meadow Lane and Garvaghy Road areas after consecutive weeks of trouble - but that it won't be able to sustain the level of patrols because of a lack of resources.

Speaking of noisy neighbours, the quiet forests of County Tyrone could be set to get a lot less quiet.

The Mid-Ulster Mail says that the rat-tat-tapping of woodpeckers can be heard in the Parkanaur, Drummanor and Caledon forest areas, an "exciting development" for birdwatchers.

While woodpeckers are common in continental Europe, in Ireland people are more accustomed to that blue animated lad on TV with the annoying laugh.

Hopes are high the (real-life) woodpeckers could make Tyrone a permanent home.

From forests to parks, and concern that a plan for Newry's future does not carry enough green spaces.

Image caption X-Tractor (or how to cross Europe in three days at 35mph)

A campaign group says that a strategy document for the city centre does not include any plans for a park, a revelation that came as a "real shocker", the Newry Reporter says.

And finally, if slow news is your thing then how about the man who travelled from County Armagh to Switzerland on a tractor?

Step forward Chrisy Smart and the Portadown Times. We don't want to spoil it, but his 1,000 mile, three-day journey at 35mph has everything any good Irish travel story should have.

Incredulous French cops, confused hotel guests and a slow dash across the Swiss border after our driving hero realised he didn't have the right documents.

Chrisy, who told the paper he's "pretty laid-back", says "it was the best way to see Europe".

We don't know if intertractoring is set to take over from interrailing but, Chrisy, we salute you. Just watch out for a surprise MOT on the tractor.