Newspaper review: Prayer campaign for Josh Martin

By Nuala McCann

image source, Mirror
image source, News Letter

The death of a 15-year-old schoolboy who inspired an online prayer campaign is the lead in the Belfast Telegraph and the Irish Mirror.

Josh Martin, 15, from Donaghadee died from cancer on Monday. But the way in which he dealt with his illness and his optimism and Christian faith inspired hundreds of thousands, says the Telegraph.

An online campaign to show support for the teenager - #prayforjosh - went viral, says the paper.

High profile stars like golfers Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia sent messages of support to the teenager and his family. Josh's mother, Kim, said the family was "heartbroken" but also felt a "deep peace" following his death.

The Mirror features a front-page picture of the schoolboy and says that "heartfelt tributes" have been pouring in following news of his death.

Josh was diagnosed with cancer at Christmas 2014, but had worked to maintain a normal life and had been studying hard for his GCSEs and looking forward to a skiing trip.

'Bring back Lisa'

The Mirror also carries a direct appeal from the family of missing woman Lisa Dorrian who disappeared in 2005.

"12 years on... one man knows what happened to Lisa," reads the paper's headline.

"Beautiful, funny and loving - Lisa Dorrian was just 25 and had everything to live for when she vanished in 2005," says the paper.

It reports that on the anniversary of the Bangor woman's disappearance from a caravan site in County Down, the family is appealing directly to the person she was with at the moment she died.

"Think back to that night ... Think about what happened and when Lisa died, how you panicked and made a decision that would change your life and our lives for ever," her sister Joanne said.

The Dorrian family say they just want Lisa's body back so that they can lay her to rest beside her mother.

The News Letter leads with a "no comment" from Northern Ireland's most senior health official following what the paper calls a "backlash" over his warning that health staff should not tweet about the forthcoming election.

The paper revealed on Monday that Richard Pengelly - permanent secretary in Northern Ireland's Department of Health - had emailed the health trusts to say he was concerned at "overtly political" tweets from staff.

The paper had a leaked copy of his email.

But when approached, Mr Pengelly declined to comment further on the issue, Instead the Department of Health issued a statement saying that staff had the right to express personal opinions on social media, but these should be in line with the HSC (Health and Social Care) Code of Conduct.

'Not a marriage'

The News Letter also features the opinions of Robert McCartney, a senior figure in the National Grammar School Association. He has questioned efforts to create a single transfer test for pupils in Northern Ireland.

The paper quotes him as saying that the type of test used in Catholic grammar schools is "inferior" to those used by other grammar.

Efforts to combine the two would be like trying to "mix oil and vinegar" and you cannot do that, he says.

The Irish News leads with former first minister Arlene Foster who claims that labelling her as "arrogant" is a "political smear".

She says that the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scandal was the "most frustrating period" of her political career and says she has no doubt that she will be vindicated by a public inquiry.

She also accuses some of her critics of being driven by misogyny, but rejected suggestions that calling Sinn Fein's new northern leader Michelle O'Neill Gerry Adams' puppet was itself misogynistic.

'Proud as punk'

And finally. the Irish News reports that Jake Burns, the front man for Belfast punk band Stiff Little Fingers, is backing a campaign to commemorate a historic punk venue made famous by the band.

An online campaign has been launched to put up a blue plaque at the building which was once the Trident in Bangor and was referenced in the band's 1978 hit, Alternative Ulster.

The paper quotes Jake who says: "It's only reasonable that one of the bright spots in a fairly dark time in Northern Ireland's history should be commemorated."

The Ulster History Circle say they do not celebrate buildings and therefore cannot back a circle plaque but - in the spirit of the Stiff Little Fingers' famous song and in recognition of the "proud history of punk" - they'd be happy to support an alternative.