NI weekly paper review: Christmas lights and Strabane 'bloodbath'

By Niall Glynn

Ulster GazetteImage source, Ulster Gazette
Ulster StarImage source, Ulster Star
Image source, Strabane Chronicle
Image source, Impartial Reporter
Image source, Coleraine Chronicle

A Santa ban, Christmas light rivalry and a "bloodbath" in Strabane all make the headlines in Northern Ireland's weekly papers.

There's a case of Christmas light envy down in County Armagh.

"Rich-brill vs Hamiltons-yawn" is the headline on the Ulster Gazette's story.

It seems that residents of Hamiltonsbawn are outraged that the council has paid for neighbour Richhill to be "lit up like Oxford Street" for Christmas, while they are forced to "settle for a tree".

"The four streets in Hamiltonsbawn have not one light or anything and it is just the most depressive place," one resident who contacted the paper says.

"Hamiltonsbawn is in darkness and there has been thousands of pounds spent on Richhill."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
A lack of Christmas lights have caused temperatures to rise in Hamiltonsbawn

The paper also has a report on a Coalisland man jailed for four months for leaving an anti-Islamic leaflet in Armagh library.

A court was told the name Right Wing Resistance was printed at the bottom of the leaflet.

Meanwhile, a man assaulted along with his friend in Strabane last weekend says the town was like the "wild west" and a "bloodbath".

Image source, Strabane Chronicle
Image caption,
Strabane on a Saturday night was compared to the Wild West by two assault victims

Dean Crawford, from Plumbridge, said he wouldn't socialise in Strabane again, telling the Strabane Chronicle: "I've never seen anything like it. We saw five other fights before we were jumped.

"There were fellas bleeding, there were a few people knocked out and I saw a woman being punched in the face in a fight on Market Street."

Dean said at one stage five men were punching, kicking and stamping on him. His friend Conall suffered a broken jaw in the attack.

Down in County Fermanagh, the Impartial Reporter says that people in the village of Monea face problems getting their pensions due to the lack of phone signal.

The problem means that a mobile post office outreach service, that runs in the village twice a week, is often unable to electronically process payments such as pensions.

"It's a bloody nuisance is what it is," says pensioner John McClure.

"You come down here in the morning and it's working, you come down the next morning and it's not working.

Image source, Imaprtial Reporter
Image caption,
Monea pensioners are fed up with payment problems

"You might wait half an hour for it to work again, or you might not."

The paper also reports on the sentencing of 20-year-old Francis McDermott, who caused the unlawful death of 13-year-old Oisin McGrath at St Michael's College in Enniskillen two years ago.

McDermott was given an 18-month sentence suspended for three years.

The paper quotes Oisin's parents Nigel and Sharon: "We plead with all young people to think before they act, one strike can kill and sadly for Oisin and for us, it did.

"The human body is very resilient, but also very fragile. If people don't think before they act, they certainly should."

Best honour

A smiling Rory Best appears on the front of the Banbridge Chronicle.

Ireland's rugby captain has been awarded the freedom of the borough by Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council.

"It really does sum up my childhood, my growing up and my rugby career. I feel I have a very close connection with all three legacy councils," Rory tells the Chronicle.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Rory Best is wrapped up here, but has been awarded the freedom of his home borough

"Every time you get an award, the closer to home it is, the more special it is."

The paper also reports on an elderly couple who were scammed out of £15,000 by fraudsters who convinced them they were working for BT.

After claiming they were trying to fix a fault, they talked the couple through a process of allowing remote access to their computer. They then stole £15,000 from their bank accounts.

"Sick of waiting at the hospital" is the headline inside the Coleraine Chronicle.

It says the latest figures show that 30 people waited more than 12 hours for treatment or admission at the Causeway Hospital.

The figure is five times the number recorded in November 2016 and three times the July 2017 figure.

The Northern Health Trust said it remained "committed to doing all it can to reduce the waiting times where possible".

Image caption,
The Coleraine Chronicle says that patients are sick of waiting at Causeway Hospital

The paper also reports on a "vicious war of words" over Sunday parking in Coleraine.

After complaints from motorists about tariffs being introduced in two car parks, the DUP raised the matter at a council meeting.

However, that provoked a walkout from the Ulster Unionists, who accused the DUP of "blatant grandstanding".

Video does Elfy business

Finally, with Christmas just around the corner, there are a couple of heart-warming stories in the Ulster Star.

Lisburn student Georgia Abernethy and her friend Ashleigh Jackson loaded up their cars with food, toiletries, clothing, blankets and other items and took them to a soup kitchen at St Patrick's Church in Donegall Street.

"It was really successful," Georgia tells the paper. "The people we talked to were just so grateful."

The Queen's University student became passionate about helping those who find themselves living in the streets after her family became homeless five years ago, but were thankfully able to stay with a relative.

Meanwhile, a Christmas video by staff and pupils at a Lisburn primary school has proved to be a real cracker, the paper says.

The video based on the film, Elf, has been viewed online "tens of thousands of times".

Eric McCleery, one of the Pond Park Primary teachers who made the video, says he had planned to make a video based on Elf for several years but could never find the right costume.

Here's to your good Elf this Christmas.