Northern Ireland

Christmas comes early as MLAs get pay rise

News Letter Image copyright News Letter

Money matters dominate Tuesday's papers: As MLAs pick up a £500 pay rise, taxpayers are paying a £30m bill for a "high-risk" Stormont loan fund.

The News Letter leads with details of a watchdog's report into the investment scheme, which was set up to help firms access loans after the credit crunch.

The public-private investment scheme has been assessed by the Audit Office.

It estimated taxpayers face a £30m loss while the scheme's private investors are in line to make a £44m profit.

'Equal sharing'

The News Letter points out that taxpayers will also pay £25m to the fund managers, and questions if they were properly incentivised to make "prudent investments".

The Irish News says the Audit Office report calls for "equal sharing" of risk and returns between private investors and the public purse.

The paper also digs into a different kind of investment in the Sperrin Mountains, where anti-gold mine campaigners have raised concerns about a mysterious "Future Search" conference.

Campaigners claim a gold mining firm has been invited to attend the council-organised conference, while they have not.

Mid-Ulster District Council, which is helping to organise the event, tells the paper it will ensure a "balanced representation" of stakeholders at the conference.

Irish World Cup bid

The Belfast Telegraph leads with an exclusive interview with the heartbroken mother of a 15-year-old boy who died after a scrambler crash at the weekend.

Marcus Forsyth's mother, Sarah Henry, tells the paper how she held his hand as he died in hospital from his injuries.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Leo Varadkar said Theresa May wrote to the Rugby World Cup organisers in support of the cross-border bid

The front page of the Irish News reports on the progress of an all-Ireland bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

The paper quotes a senior official involved in the bid who says they are "confident" Belfast's Casement Park - currently under re-development - will be ready in time.

However, because there is still no devolved government in place at Stormont, Northern Ireland was represented by a senior civil servant as the cross-border bid was submitted.

The Daily Mirror reports that Prime Minister Theresa May has given her backing to the bid, writing a letter of support to the organisers.

It says Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar revealed her support for the project as the two leaders met at Downing Street on Monday.

'46 minutes in the Assembly'

Christmas has come early in west Belfast this year, as the city beat Ballymena to the dubious title of being the first to turn on its Christmas lights.

However, the Belfast Telegraph reports that the tree on the Stewartstown Road was illuminated three months early "by mistake".

The manager of the Stewartstown Road Regeneration Centre tells the paper the lights were switched on "inadvertently" during a family fun day and staff had not noticed until the daylight faded.

Santa has also made an early visit to Stormont, as the News Letter reports on a £500 pay rise for MLAs.

It says they picked up the cash in March and are in line for another similar increase in six months' time.

The paper points out that MLAs and their staff have racked up £6m in salaries and expenses - despite spending only 46 minutes in the Assembly so far this year.