Northern Ireland

NI Newspaper headlines: Brexit battle and the 'Beast from the East'

Front page of the News Letter on Thursday Image copyright News Letter
Image caption Front page of the News Letter on Thursday

The fall-out from the European Union's proposals for the Northern Ireland border and the cold blast of the "Beast from the East" dominate the newspaper headlines on Thursday.

The News Letter leads with Theresa May's comments that "no prime minister could ever agree" to the draft legislation published by the EU.

Its editorial says Mrs May's response is welcome, but raises the question of what would have been the position had the UK government "not been propped up by the DUP?".

It adds that the party, "by fluke of parliamentary arithmetic" has prevented a border in the Irish Sea, but it is "unlikely to be able to stop this on its own".

The Belfast Telegraph says unionists of all shades joined forces to reject the draft legal text, with Suzanne Breen saying the ball is now firmly in Mrs May's court as she prepares to deliver her Brexit speech in the House of Commons.

However, she cautions that "despite all the hype" it is important to remember we are still at the early stages of Brexit negotiations and "everything is still to play for".

Elsewhere, the newspaper has the stark headline "NI braced for chaos as Beast from the East rolls in" and warns temperatures on Thursday will feel as low as -10C.

It says the Siberian storm brought dry snow and bitterly cold winds and that now we will have to contend with Storm Emma. A yellow weather warning is in place, with up to 10cm of snow expected to fall on Thursday and Friday.

Image caption The snow has resulted in difficult driving conditions in Northern Ireland

The Republic of Ireland has been placed on red alert, with almost four million people being urged to be at home by 16:00 GMT as "the country braces itself for blizzard-like conditions".

The News Letter reports that the weather woes have led to cancelled flights, buses and public meetings in Northern Ireland, with a number of schools also closing. Thursday's trains between Belfast and Dublin will end during early afternoon due to the worsening conditions in the Republic.

Meanwhile, The Irish News reports that concerns have been raised for the welfare of a Latvian couple who are believed to have been sleeping rough on the streets of north Belfast for the last number of days

The couple were huddled under a duvet at waste ground beside Carrick Hill on Wednesday as snow fell. The paper says homelessness organisations are aware of the couple and arrangements have been made in relation to accommodation.

The Irish News leads with the news that the Police Ombudsman has launched a "criminal investigation" into the circumstances surrounding the death of a County Antrim woman who was knocked down and killed shortly after being spoken to by police.

Shannon McQuillan, 19, from Dunloy, died after being struck by a van on the Moneynick Road near Toomebridge, County Antrim in January. Her boyfriend Owen McFerran, 21, was also injured in the incident.

They had contact with police and an ambulance crew before the collision and there are two inquiries into the case.

Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Shannon McQuillan from Dunloy died in January after she was struck by a van

Police Ombudsman officials have confirmed to solicitors for Ms McQuillan's family that after considering the material gathered during an initial probe it is now pursuing a criminal investigation.

The Irish News says it is understood the investigation is in relation to alleged "gross negligence manslaughter" and misconduct in public office with regard to the officers who last had contact with Ms McQuillan.

The rape trial involving two Ulster rugby players, Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding, makes the front page of the Daily Mirror, with the court hearing about the WhatsApp messages sent by two of their friends on the day the players were arrested.

A number of messages sent by Rory Harrison and Blane McIlroy, were read out in court.

Mr Harrison texted: "Hopefully it's just thrown out, Just a silly girl who's done something then regretted it." He added: "She's causing so much trouble for the lads."

Mr Jackson, 26, from Belfast's Oakleigh Park, is charged with one count of rape and one count of sexual assault. He denies the charges. Mr Olding, 24, from Ardenlee Street, Belfast, is also charged with rape. He too denies the charge.

Blane McIlroy, 26, of Royal Lodge Road, Belfast, is charged with one count of exposure. He denies the charge. Rory Harrison, 25, of Manse Road, Belfast is charged with perverting the course of justice and withholding information. He denies the charge.

Elsewhere, the newspaper reports that police are working to establish the number of people who died as a result of a house fire in Derrylin, County Fermanagh, on Tuesday.

It's understood at least two adults and a child were in the house in the Molly Road area.

PSNI Det Insp Peter McKenna said work to identify the victims would take a "number of days" and that "reports of a fourth victim" are being investigated.