Northern Ireland

Stormont soap opera continues in the papers

News Letter front page on Tuesday 6 March Image copyright News Letter

The latest instalment of the Stormont soap opera is aired in every paper.

Since the most recent round of talks collapsed last month, there has been much debate about whether a draft deal to restore power sharing had been on the table.

The plot has thickened again after claims the Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster personally handed over a hard copy of the deal to her Sinn Féin counterpart Michelle O'Neill.

The News Letter leads with Mrs Foster's categorical denial - she said many draft papers had been exchanged between the two main parties "on an almost daily basis" during the negotiations and none of them "had any standing".

"They were an exchange of ideas between negotiating teams," she said. "I have a lever arch folder containing them."

The Daily Mirror says this denial is the "latest chapter in a tit-for-tat row".

Hardline

And in another twist, the Irish News claims DUP figures briefed senior loyalists that a deal on Irish language had been reached the weekend before the talks broke down.

The paper says while the DUP continues to deny any agreement on an Irish language act, it understands members of the party were involved in a series of late-night phone calls to hardline loyalists.

The message was that a deal had been done and it would "only enshrine in legislation" rights already available to Irish speakers.

"Stormont limbo" is also on the Belfast Telegraph's front page but this story involves St Patrick's Day and drink.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption St Patrick's Day is fast approaching

The paper says Belfast City Council staff had been looking to extend the powers of its staff to confiscate alcohol or issue on-the-spot fines during this year's celebrations but the plans have been scuppered because there are no ministers to sign off on the relevant legislation.

The paper highlights particular problems in the city's Holyland student area, which it says has "become infamous in recent years for the large crowds of young people taking part in anti-social behaviour - to the distress of other residents".

All four papers have a photograph of the 27-year-old who appeared in court on Monday charged with murdering four people, including an 18-month baby, in a house fire in County Fermanagh last week.

The Irish News carries the photograph of Daniel Sebastian Allen, who covered his face, on its front page.

'Drip, drip, drip'

The Daily Mirror highlights the "growing problem" of postal scams, and details the case of Audrey Hamilton who lost more than £14,000.

It is believed Ms Hamilton, who died in 2016 aged 88, had replied to letters promising a free gift and criminals gained access to her bank account.

Speaking out as part of the new ScamwiseNI Partnership, her son Raymond said she was struggling to pay for food and heating as a result.

"There was a constant drip, drip, drip," he said. "Then other ones would get your account details, clear the lot and you'd never hear of them again."

Beastly sand

Under the eye-catching headline - "The man who lost his mind" - the Belfast Telegraph tells the story of a Northern Ireland pensioner who had been living with a 9cm (3in) air pocket in his brain.

It also has remarkable images of the unidentified man's brain.

Image caption Sand, whipped up by strong winds, means some manual labour for bowlers in Ballycastle

Doctors were so stunned by the discovery, they wrote about it in the British Medical Journal.

After the Beast from the East and Storm Emma, Northern Ireland is now being plagued by relentless rain.

But spare a thought for bowlers in Ballycastle - they are dealing with more than just a bucketful of sand which was dumped on their greens by beastly easterly winds.

Club secretary Sammy Craig said: "There's nothing for it but to have the members out with shovels and we will hire a motorised wheelbarrow to take the sand back to the beach."