Northern Ireland

Weekly newspaper review: Undercover stings and school disco blues

Image copyright Newtownards Chronicle
Image copyright County Derry Post
Image copyright Impartial Reporter
Image copyright Antrim Guardian
Image copyright Strabane Weekly News
Image copyright Portadown Times

County Down

The Northern Ireland-wide GP crisis came into sharp focus in Newtownards this week, with concerns over the future of the town's out-of-hours GP service.

The Newtownards Chronicle says a temporary staff shortage had led to fears the service would not be able to operate on Monday and Tuesday night (13 and 14 February).

However, in an "11th hour reprieve", the South Eastern Health Trust managed to secure a "minimum level" of cover to keep the service running.

The paper also reports on how the party could soon be over for school formals across Northern Ireland.

Disappointed debutants at Glastry College had to cancel their fifth form formal last week, when the hotel they had booked said the underage clients would have to leave the premises by 9.30pm.

Since then, the Chronicle has been looking into Northern Ireland's licensing laws, which state that under-18s are generally not permitted on licensed premises after 9pm at night.

New legislation to permit "underage functions" reportedly had widespread support at Stormont, but when the assembly collapsed, the bill fell too.

County Londonderry

An ongoing dispute over a union flag at a roundabout in Magherafelt has fluttered on this week.

'Laying claim'

The County Derry Post reports that Mid Ulster District Council is now facing legal action after it hired contractors to cut down the "illegal" flagpole on 8 February.

According to the paper, a group called British Truth Forum has claimed responsibility for erecting both the flag and a sign stating its "intention to lay claim to the roundabout".

On its inside pages, the paper carries an inspiring story of a married couple who have spent more than 25 years caring for children and adults with learning disabilities.

Image copyright County Derry Post
Image caption Josie and Eddie Reid were congratulated on their well-deserved retirement by Ann Marie McMenamin from the Western Health Trust

Josie and Eddie Reid opened their Limavady family home in the 1990s to provide respite care for families, many of whom need a break from "challenging" care needs.

Paying tribute to the couple on their retirement, the Western Health Trust told the paper the couple had provided a "home from home" environment with many of their guests still referring to Josie and Eddie as "their second mum and dad".

County Fermanagh

The sudden deaths of two Enniskillen sisters just weeks apart have led their heartbroken family to call for better services for those suffering from mental heath problems.

'Horrific'

The Impartial Reporter carries an emotional interview with Emma Reilly, who lost her 23-year-old sister, Shauna, in December, followed by the death of 33-year-old Michelle Reilly last week.

"To suddenly go from having two sisters to being an only child is horrific," she says.

The paper also reports on why residents of Boho are not holding their breath for help from Stormont after their village was virtually cut off by severe flooding in late 2015.

It says many villagers did not meet the criteria for Stormont's £1,000 financial assistance payments, which "specified townlands had to be under water for at least 14 days".

County Antrim

The sudden closure of a law firm in Antrim has caused serious concerns for its staff and clients, according to the Antrim Guardian.

Staff at David G Bell Solicitors were reportedly "shell-shocked" when they were told their firm was shutting down earlier this month.

The Law Society has since told the BBC it has been notified of the closure and "issues arising" from the incident are "under consideration".

'Secret drinking den'

Image copyright © Albert Bridge/CC Geograph
Image caption Street drinkers have been hiding from the long arm of the law underneath the Old Courthouse

The legal theme continues inside, with the news that "young boozers" have been "holding court" in an unlikely venue for breaking the law.

The paper has discovered a secret drinking den underneath the steps of the Old Courthouse.

Discarded cider bottles and other litter were strewn around the Market Street building, which according to the paper is one of Antrim's "flagship civic venues".

County Tyrone

The Strabane Weekly News leads with a fresh appeal for information about the paramilitary murder of Andrew Burns, on the ninth anniversary of his death.

The 27-year-old Strabane man was shot dead in a church car park in County Donegal in February 2008.

One man has been jailed as a result of the cross-border investigation but police believe several people were involved in the killing.

The paper also reports on how local tanning salons have been feeling the heat in an undercover "sting operation".

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Two tanning salons were burned in a council operation targeting businesses who sell sun bed services to underage clients

Two salons were fined £250 each after they were caught offering sun bed sessions to children under the age of 18.

The teenagers posed as customers in a "test purchase exercise" organised by Derry City and Strabane District Council.

County Armagh

Burglaries and break-ins feature widely in many of the weeklies, and Friday's Portadown Times leads with a report that the town's burglary rate has risen by 13%.

The devil is in the detail however, with PSNI Insp Leslie Badger suggesting the rise could be due to boundary changes and the expansion of Portadown district electoral area (DEA).

The burglary rate in Lurgan DEA, for example, fell by 31% this year, while in the overall Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon council area, the number of burglaries is down by 13.7%.

'Toilet trouble'

In its court coverage, the paper reports on the urgent matter of a motorist caught speeding at over 100mph on Portadown's Tandragee Road.

The court heard that when stopped by police, the 26-year-old driver told officers he had been speeding because he was "dying for the toilet".

His excuse held no water with the judge, however, who imposed a £150 fine and a two-week driving ban.