Northern Ireland

Newspaper headlines: 'Irexit' and salmon shortage

News Letter Image copyright News Letter

It may be Friday but, while most of us may be looking forward to the weekend, spare a thought for the 10 and 11-year-olds across Northern Ireland awaiting the results of the transfer test on Saturday.

The Belfast Telegraph leads with that theme on its front page, with the splash: "Getting a grammar place is tougher than ever".

Inside, it reports that figures obtained by the paper show the standard needed to get into a grammar school is higher than ever, with many schools accepting only those with the highest marks.

The paper also breaks down its findings for each of Northern Ireland's grammar schools while, in an editorial, it says there should be a "renewed focus on secondary schools so that all children will receive equal opportunities in education".

From education to health, both the Irish News and News Letter pick up on a rise in emergency department waiting times.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The Irish News says health service problems cannot wait for Stormont to get up and running again

New figures show that almost 900 patients in December 2016 waited longer than 12 hours at emergency departments, a number the Irish News says is almost three times bigger than the same month in 2015.

In its editorial, the paper says the issues with the health system "cannot wait until our political institutions are restored".

Over on the front page of the News Letter, the situation is described as an "A&E crisis as 12-hour wait times rise sharply".

Meanwhile, the Daily Mirror's front page reports that a man described as having "Ireland's worst criminal record" has been jailed after causing the death of an 18-year-old in a crash in 2012.

The paper reports that Eamon Lynch, from Londonderry, who has almost 500 convictions, will serve 18 months in jail for careless driving and drink driving.

Back at the News Letter, the majority of its front page turns back to the long-running story that generated more headlines than a tabloid editor after 16 espressos - no, not RHI.

The other one. We're talking Brexit. Or, more specifically, 'Irexit'.

'Stomping the land'

"Dublin should be open for 'Irexit'" reads the headline, with the paper reporting that a former senior Irish diplomat says the Republic should not rule out following the UK out the EU door.

Ray Bassett, writing in the News Letter, says the Republic faces a "momentous decision" on whether to decide to "continue to be a part of Team EU " or join "more with the North Atlantic Anglophone world".

He adds it would be the "height of folly not to consider all options".

Sticking with politics, commentator Alex Kane writes in the Irish News that a Brexit or Trump-style surprise should not be expected in March's assembly election as there is no "populist alternative to... the 'establishment' voices".

"There is no charismatic figure stomping the land with a microphone; an army of social media supporters; a manifesto for change; and an electoral vehicle stuffed with candidates," he writes.

"All those people demanding change on March 2 will be hard-pushed to find examples of that change on their ballot papers."

And still with Brexit, the Daily Mirror says that pharmaceutical firm Almac will create 100 jobs in the Republic to maintain access to the EU.

The company, based in Craigavon, explains that the move would ensure "continued presence within the EU".

Image caption Catch me if you can: Salmon sightings have been in short supply

And finally, since it's Friday, let's have a bit of fish news - or more specifically ask, where have all the salmon gone?

According to the Belfast Telegraph, not a single salmon has been caught in Ireland in 2017 - and fishermen are concerned over the "troubled waters".

The newspaper's angling correspondent, Vic Thomas, says it's the longest period in 10 years that no salmon has been caught.

"After 26 days, it is worrying," he writes. "Are the fresh fish going to come in later in the season or not at all? It's puzzling."

But, hold on, don't throw out your rod. Edward Montgomery, who oversees the fishery on the River Bann, says there's no need for "great concern" yet.

So don't fish-pair, anglers. Get out there and catch the first one - the weekend awaits.