Northern Ireland

NI newspaper review: Schools out for winter

Boy playing in snow at Stormont Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption More than 200 schools were closed on Wednesday, and many children made the most of it

An unexpected day off school because of the snow delighted many children but there is a angry backlash from parents, according to Thursday's papers.

A leading economist tells the Belfast Telegraph short-notice shutdowns throw childcare arrangements into "chaos" and mean many parents cannot go to work.

But the decision to close a school is "not an open and shut" case, one principal tells the News Letter.

Ernie Long says headteachers are "out on a limb" no matter what they do.

"You don't want to be in a position of having to send the pupils home because staff are not able to make it in, or phone parents at work to tell them to pick up their children," the Orangefield Primary School principal explains.

The News Letter also took the temperature on social media, where it found a mixed reaction from parents.

One woman agreed with putting the safety of children and staff first: "Education isn't much good if you are in a crash, hurt badly or even worse - killed."

'Completely unacceptable'

The paper leads with criticism of a former Special Adviser (SPAD) at the Northern Ireland Office, for controversial remarks which have insulted both DUP and autism campaigners.

Kevin Meagher wrote: "Frankly, if the DUP was a person, modern etiquette would see them cut them (sic) some slack on the suspicion they had a spectrum disorder."

A spokesperson for Autistic UK said it was "wrong to use disability as an insult or slur" while the DUP said the remark was "completely unacceptable".

The Belfast Telegraph has an exclusive lead story on problems with the construction of the Ulster University's new Belfast campus.

The city centre project is already a year behind schedule, and the paper has seen documents which suggest the opening will be delayed for a further three years.

Image caption An artist's impression of Ulster University's new Belfast campus

The construction has been embroiled in a series of legal disputes, and the campus reportedly will not now open until 2022.

The passing of the years is not slowing down one of our best-known exports, actor Liam Neeson, who is promoting his latest "fast-paced" thriller.

'You can't outrun a train'

The 65-year-old - who was not known for his action roles until later in life - tells the Belfast Telegraph he is planning at least three more action films.

"I'd like to think that I know when an audience is going to look at me and go, 'Oh come on! You can't outrun a train... then I'll get out of that genre, I think," he said.

Neeson agrees that women face age discrimination in Hollywood, but says the film industry "can be tough on guys too".

One group of actresses who are certainly not showing their age is the cast of the Channel Four TV comedy, Derry Girls.

Image copyright Channel 4
Image caption Nicola Coughlan (left) is 31 and many of her schoolgirl co-stars are in their 20s

The Belfast Telegraph says fans of the show were "shocked" to find out that Nicola Coughlan - who plays a baby-faced 16-year-old schoolgirl Clare - is actually 31.

Her 26-year-old co-star Jamie-Lee O'Donnell - who plays rebellious teenager Michelle - makes the front page of the Irish News.

She praises the coming-of-age show for its "universal humour".

She may have even taken some inspiration for her character from former classmates.

"I knew girls like Michelle in school who were real wee rebels and a total terror," she tells the paper.

Message in a bottle

The Irish News and others report on the announcement of a new round of political negotiations aimed at restoring devolution at Stormont.

The talks are being held next Wednesday, two weeks after the appointment of the new Secretary of State, Karen Bradley.

A message in a bottle that washed up along the Scottish coast has sparked a hunt to track down the writer, who was from Northern Ireland.

The Daily Mirror says the note, found by a walker on a cliffside, was written 21 years ago by a Belfast schoolboy called Martin George.

The finder, Christian Lewis, was charmed by the childhood letter and wants to know what became of the schoolboy, who was 13 at the time.

He tells the paper: "I'd love to meet Martin and see how his life has been."