NI paper review: Striking surgery and Stormont talks return

By Ciaran McCauley

Image source, Daily Mirror
Image source, News Letter

A ceasefire by a dissident republican group and a resumption of political talks as they're more commonly known at Stormont is among the headlines on four very different front pages on Wednesday.

But we'll start with the Daily Mirror and the striking image adorning its front page.

"Amazing Feet" runs the headline alongside a picture of Strabane teenager Tristan Stewart, who is recovering from pioneering surgery which saw him have his right leg amputated and then reattached the wrong way round.

The procedure means the aspiring sports star will be able to run and play football, with his backwards foot becoming a new kneecap.

Devolution changes?

"When we first saw his foot it was shocking but we're all used to it," his mother told the Mirror. "He's now hoping to become a Paralympian."

Its front page reports that the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) is recruiting for senior officials to deal with same-sex marriage and abortion - even though both issues are devolved to Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland has strict abortion laws and same-sex marriage is banned, whereas it is legal in the rest of the UK.

Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
Óglaigh na hÉireann was responsible for a car bomb outside a police station in Londonderry in 2010

The News Letter writes that the internal job advertisements at the NIO will "fuel speculation that the government is considering its own policy on the controversial issues".

Its front page carries the headline "Time for all armed groups to bow out" while, inside, the newspaper carries two pages of analysis.

It reports that, despite the ceasefire, the dissident group has "no plans to decommission arms".

Over in the Belfast Telegraph, get your red lines, deadlines and dead-end signs out - the Stormont talks are back.

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Will new talks be the key to unlocking the Stormont crisis?

With a new year under way and a new Northern Ireland Secretary in place, there'll be optimism this fresh round of talks succeeds where the (approximately) 78 other rounds in the last year did not.

Elsewhere, the Belfast Telegraph digs deep into Northern Ireland's enduring relationship with transfer tests and reports that the unofficial tests are growing in popularity, even now 10 years after the abolition of the 11-plus.

The newspaper offers a full breakdown of what grades or scores were required to get into each of Northern Ireland's selective grammar schools.

Back in the News Letter, students of history will be delighted to learn that the stirrups used by King William at the Battle of the Boyne are set to go on public display for the first time.

The stirrups were bought by the Orange Institution from a private seller, and will now be exhibited at the Orange Order's heritage centre in Limavady.

Image source, Graham Curry
Image caption,
Riding stirrups worn by King William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne are being displayed at the Orange Heritage Centre in Limavady

Meanwhile, the Irish News reports that a historic building in north Belfast is being restored thanks to the crucial help of two furry helpers.

Meg and Jess, a border collie and springer spaniel, are writing their own doggie tale at Oldpark Carnegie Library, where they are a crucial part of the restoration team.

The pair are charged with sniffing out dry rot with their "powerful sense of smell", according to Adam Stewart, a Rentokil Property Care.

And finally - are aliens trying to make contact with us? As ever, the truth is out there although it does involve complicated physics (boooooooo!) and lasers (wahey!).

Image source, Science Photo Library
Image caption,
Could we soon be talking to ET?

Dr Gianluca Sarri recreated the first ever mini version of a gamma ray burst in a lab, in an effort to establish if similar flashes of light from far-off parts of the universe are natural or messages from advanced alien life forms.

Presumably, scientists on those far-off alien planets are studying heart-eye emojis and YouTube videos of trombone-playing cats with just as much fascination.