NI newspaper review: Snow chaos, A&E 'bedlam'

By Eimear Flanagan

Image source, News Letter
Image source, Daily Mirror

Snow has caused "chaos" and "mayhem" in Northern Ireland, according to Wednesday's papers.

The Belfast Telegraph says the wintry blast led to treacherous conditions on the roads with 15 crashes and the cancellation of bus services.

It adds that drivers reported "horror" journeys, thousands of homes were left without power and many schools closed.

The News Letter says the snowiest place was Glenanne, County Armagh, where 8ins (21c) of snow was recorded.

Image source, PSNI Cookstown
Image caption,
Police posted a photo of 'just one of the many' crashes they dealt with in the snow

Elsewhere in the county, the paper reports that Craigavon Area Hospital's emergency department was "bursting at the seams" on Monday night.

'The worst yet'

It quotes SDLP councillor Declan McAlinden who visited the hospital after receiving a call from concerned staff.

He described the scene as "bedlam" and "the worst yet" with 10 ambulances waiting outside to offload patients.

The Southern Health Trust apologised to patients who experienced "lengthy waiting times" but described the situation on Monday as a "spike in activity" which was "quite normal for an emergency department".

Image caption,
The trust said the number of ambulances at Craigavon was 'not unexpected' at this time of year

A medical miracle makes the front page of the Irish News, with the heart-warming story of a sister and brother who cheated death against the odds.

Mary and Fintan O'Neill were both knocked down after getting off their school bus and suffered serious head injuries and other wounds.

Their mother, who was the first on the scene, says she found the children on the road "holding on to each other".

Amelia O'Neill says doctors told her "only a miracle" would save her daughter's life and at one point, the family were told Mary might be brain dead.

One year on, Mary's recovery has "astounded" medics and the family are counting their blessings as the "luckiest people in the world".

'DUP distain'

A frank TV interview with Gaelic games commentator Joe Brolly is widely reported in Wednesday's papers.

Image caption,
Joe Brolly complained that half of the Irish rugby team 'aren't even from Ireland'

He says middle-class Catholics have lost faith in attempts to create a shared society in Northern Ireland and says the opportunity and hope created by the 1998 Good Friday Agreement has been wasted.

He largely blames what he describes as the "contempt and distain" shown at DUP conferences, and said former DUP leader Peter Robinson was thwarted in his attempts to build confidence among Catholics.

Mr Brolly said the sport was being "destroyed" by professionalism, and claimed that "half the [national] team aren't even from Ireland".

The paper says the remark is "likely to prove controversial".

The Irish News also carries provocative comments from former first minister of Northern Ireland, David Trimble.

Image caption,
Lord Trimble urged the government to cut Sinn Féin MPs' expenses

Lord Trimble accuses Sinn Féin of collapsing the Northern Ireland Assembly in order to use Brexit to further their cause for the reunification of Ireland.

He also suggested that the government should the party's Westminster expenses allowances as its MPs do not sit in Parliament.

On the topic of abstentionist MPs, speculation continues on who will challenge Sinn Féin in the forthcoming by-election in West Tyrone following the resignation of Barry McElduff.

Kevin Skelton, whose wife was murdered in the Omagh bomb in 1998, tells the News Letter he would "love to stand" to provide a voice for Trouble victims at Westminster.

'Wonderful idea'

The widower says the most important thing would be to have "the respect of both communities".

However, victims' campaigner Alan McBride, who was widowed by an IRA bomb in 1993, warned the idea could be "toxic" and "very bad for the victims' community".

He argues it would inevitably lead to questions about their impartiality, with people asking: "Whose victim are they?"

The Daily Mirror reveals that Ann Travers - whose sister was shot dead by the IRA in 1984 - has been approached to run in the by-election.

'Storm of a voice'

Ms Travers has ruled herself out due to family and work commitments but said a Troubles "legacy candidate" was a "wonderful idea".

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
U2 called the late Dolores O'Riordan Limerick's 'Bel Canto'

The paper leads with police confirmation that there was no foul play in the sudden death of the Cranberries singer, Dolores O'Riordan.

It carries the poignant final photo she posted on her Instagram account, when she revealed her New Year's Eve celebrations would be a night in with her boyfriend, having a takeaway in her pyjamas.

It carries a tribute from Bono and U2 to Limerick's "Bel Canto".

The band tweeted: "Out of the west came this storm of a voice - she has such strength of conviction yet she could speak to the fragility in all of us.