Local newspaper review: Blitz, guns and the Pope's hat

Image source, Mid-Ulster Mail
Image source, Newry Reporter
Image source, Lurgan Mail
Image source, Larne Times
Image source, Coleraine Chronicle
Image source, Fermanagh Herald

This week's local papers feature everything from concerns about local health services to a Cookstown man who got his hands on the Pope's Zuchetto - or skullcap.

News that the Southern Health Trust may be planning to close the emergency department at Newry's Daisy Hill Hospital is causing major concern for the people of Newry and surrounding areas.

This week's Newry Reporter devotes six pages to the story.

The paper's lead story tells its readers: "Southern Health Trust Board gave what feels like a kick in the teeth to Daisy Hill Hospital's Emergency Department (ED) after it unexpectedly passed £1,000,000 spend to increase ED and inpatient capacity at Craigavon Area Hospital as a contingency plan for likely closures of the Newry ED in the coming months."

The BBC understands the service has been vulnerable for some time but the trust has said the service would only be suspended as a last resort.

Huge fire sparks conga

"It was just like the Blitz," is the Coleraine Chronicle's eye-catching splash: The comments were made by the manager of a Portrush residential home after a late night fire at a derelict property just two doors down.

Some 33 residents were moved to the ground floor in case they had to be evacuated as firefighters tackled the blaze.

A sing-song was organised to keep their spirits up with some of the elderly people taking part in a conga, reports the Chronicle.

The PSNI is treating the fire as suspicious.

'Rare Oul' actor injured

A masked republican colour party in military attire is the striking image on the front page of the Lurgan Mail.

The paper says the PSNI have promised "robust action" over an illegal dissident republican parade in the County Armagh town. The march was held in the Kilwilkie estate on Saturday.

The Mail also has the story of Gilford actor Oliver Moore who remains in a critical condition at the Royal Victoria Hospital after being struck by a car in Portadown on Saturday.

Mr Moore is well known for playing the part of troubled writer Brendan Behan in the play The Rare Oul Times.

Replica gun warning

The Larne Times has a picture of a small arsenal on its front page which it describes as "Ultra-realistic" airguns.

Police believe that the guns were being used by young people in the Antiville area of the town last Tuesday, 11 April, before being abandoned as officers arrived in the area.

A Police spokesperson told the paper that "it doesn't bear thinking about the consequences" if an officer was confronted by a member of the public carrying one of the life-like replicas.

How much is fresh air?

"If they could charge for fresh air, they would," begins the editorial in the Fermanagh Herald.

The paper is scathing over the possibility that people wishing to walk the Cuilcagh Mountain Boardwalk, in the south of the county, may have to pay for the privilege in the future.

The walk is a victim of its own success with a high volume of traffic leading to congestion on local roads as crowds flock to use the facility.

The paper says it is understandable the council is trying to find solutions to that problem. However, it finds the notion of asking people to fork out to visit an "open-air site" unfair.

Zuchetto suits you!

The Mid-Ulster Mail reports that "hooligans" are taking up the bulk of police time in the area.

Anti-social behaviour in Cookstown prompted the local PSNI to issue a Facebook plea over the Easter weekend for party-goers to "show some respect when visiting the town" for a night out, the paper reports.

The Mail's front-page picture is of Cookstown man, Dan O'Neill, wearing the Pope's hat: The tale behind how he got his hands on the silk Zuchetto is bizarre.

Mr O'Neill was on a trip to Rome to pay his respects to former O'Neill clan chief, Hugh O'Neill, when he got an opportunity to meet the pontiff.

Pope Francis had just shaken Dan O'Neill's hand when an American lady proposed the two men swap hats.

Pope Francis agreed, but decided to place his Zucchetto on Mr O'Neill's head during this transaction, telling him: "It suits you!"

Not an every-day occurrence.