NI Newspaper Review: Bonfire policy 'in tatters', 'soul mates' and political ice melts

Image source, News Letter

It's all gone "up in smoke" says the Belfast Telegraph.

The paper leads with news that the city council's bonfire policy has fallen apart.

Its new tactic "lies in tatters" says the paper, after a contractor pulled out over safety concerns for workers in the wake of violence in nationalist areas.

The paper reveals that it has seen an internal email in which the council says it is "no longer in a position" to remove bonfire material.

Image source, PAcemaker
Image caption,
Trouble flared after bonfire material was removed in Belfast

The paper says there is no-one left who is willing to lift such material and the policy is, effectively, "in tatters".

Arlene Foster, DUP, and Michelle O'Neill, Sinn Féin, are pictured side by side on the Telegraph's front page.

"Foster and O'Neill: the night they revealed their personal side," reads the headline. The paper reports on candid interviews given to Sky News Ireland correspondent David Blevins at a meeting organised by the Methodist Church, followed by questions from an audience.

Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill "haven't exactly bonded" and "any hopes of sisterhood across the sectarian divide have mostly been in vain" says the paper.

However, the Telegraph says their relationship appeared "more positive than is publicly known".

Image source, Reuters
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Signs of a thaw? Michelle O'Neill and Arlene Foster 'appeared more positive' in recent interviews says the Belfast Telegraph

It quotes one member of the audience who remarked: "This wasn't the usual Punch and Judy show".

In its editorial, the leader writer notes that "this could be a huge leap forward for Stormont".

On the violence surrounding the removal of bonfire material, the Irish Mirror carries a controversial call by a Sinn Féin councillor in Belfast.

The paper quotes Jim McVeigh who says that evicting families of young people who are involved in persistent anti-social behaviour could be one way of ending the trouble.

"These people couldn't care less about internment and know nothing about the history of it and care even less about their own community," he tells the paper.

"But it is the same hardcore of about 30 young people who are involved in holding the people of Divis to ransom."

The Irish News leads with an interview with Ryan Peoples, 25, who believes dissident republicans targeted his mother's house in Strabane because of a "drunken row" he had outside a pub.

"Dissidents threw pipe bomb at my mother because of drunken row," reads the headline.

Mr Peoples tells the paper that he believes the attack is linked to a fight outside a bar in Strabane with a man who has links to dissident republicans.

His mother, Mary, had a luck escape when the pipe bomb landed on her bed at Melmount Villas. Mr Peoples carried it out and left it on wasteland.

Now, he says he has been warned by police that his life is under threat, says the paper.

Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
Rev Harold Good said Martin McGuinness was a 'soul mate'

Inside, the Irish News reports that the Methodist minister who oversaw the decommissioning of IRA weapons in 2005 said he and the late Martin McGuinness were "soulmates".

Rev Harold Good was speaking at the west Belfast Féile about his friendship with the former deputy first minister and Sinn Féin MLA. The paper says that he described a visit by Mr McGuinness to Mr Good's Ballycastle holiday home overlooking Rathlin.

"Is this where you go when you die?" Mr McGuinness asked, overwhelmed by the beauty.

The News Letter leads with PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton saying that police will never take sides on gay marriage.

He defended his decision to let uniformed officers take part in Saturday's Belfast Pride but also acknowledged that this had caused "offence in some quarters".

Image source, Press Eye
Image caption,
Police took part in Belfast Pride on Saturday but the PSNI chief says his force will never take sides on gay marriage

The chief constable said the desire to connect with the LGBT community and to encourage both the reporting of hate crime and new recruits from that sector of society outweighed any anticipated negative reaction.

The paper's front page features the same picture of the first and deputy first ministers sitting side by side. The caption reads: "Foster: It hurts to be called a homophobe".

The paper says Mrs Foster remarked that it hurt to be given that label "just because I stand up for the definition of marriage which I believe in".

The News Letter also carries the story of seven brothers who fought across Europe in World War One from Gallipoli to Passchendaele.

Six of the brothers survived.

David Jenkins, from Londonderry, has spent years researching his family tree, writes Niall Deeney, and has uncovered a "remarkable story of tragedy and bravery stretched across the major theatres of the First World War".

Mr Jenkins' grandfather, Samuel, and his six great uncles all fought and one of them was injured by the shell that claimed the life of poet Francis Ledwidge at Passchendaele.

The story is not complete, "there are still some gaps" Mr Jenkins tells the newspaper. It is a work in progress.