Northern Ireland

NI paper review: MLA's abuse and Irish border deadline

Front page of the Daily Mirror on Friday Image copyright Daily Mirror
Image caption Front page of the Daily Mirror on Friday
Front page of the News Letter on Friday Image copyright News Letter
Image caption Front page of the News Letter on Friday

The revelation by Sinn Féin assembly member Conor Murphy that he was physically abused by paedophile priest Fr Malachy Finegan, who also tried to sexually groom him, makes many of the newspaper front pages on Friday.

The Irish News reports that Mr Murphy attended St Colman's College in Newry from 1975 to 1980.

He says the priest dragged him into an office at the school and savagely beat him with a stick before asking a series of explicit questions.

Mr Murphy says he is angry that a man he says was "a violent, aggressive bully, a drunkard with an unhealthy interest in children" was allowed to be a principal and teacher in the school.

The Daily Mirror also leads with the story and says Mr Murphy has made a statement to lawyers and that he was going public to reassure others.

He claims the Catholic Church and the school authorities have questions to answer.

The Catholic Church has described Fr Finegan's abuse as "abhorrent", with St Colman's College condemning it in the "strongest possible terms".

Image caption Fr Malachy Finnegan taught at St Colman's College in Newry and was later its president

The News Letter's front page focuses on Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar's suggestion that it could take until October to reach a deal on what will happen to the Irish border after Brexit.

DUP MP Sammy Wilson is quoted as saying that Mr Varadkar's "border fixation" is binding him to the "deep trouble" facing the Irish economy.

"If a free trade deal is not done between the UK and EU by October, then the Irish economy would be cut off from its main international market - the UK."

Mr Varadkar, who was speaking at an EU summit in Brussels, said he would like to have a deal done earlier but he "would rather have the right deal in October than any deal in June".

The Belfast Telegraph's front page focuses on the trial in Belfast involving two Ulster rugby players, Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding, charged with rape.

It reports on the comments of Gavan Duffy QC, a defence barrister for their friend, Rory Harrison, 25, from Manse Road, Belfast, who denies withholding information and perverting the course of justice.

Mr Duffy told the court on Thursday that Mr Harrison is "not a weasel".

He said Mr Harrison had answered every question put to him by the police and by barristers in court in an "honest, straightforward and candid manner".

Paddy Jackson, 26, from Belfast's Oakleigh Park, is charged with one count of rape and one count of sexual assault. He denies the charges.

Stuart Olding, 25, from Ardenlee Street, Belfast, is also charged with rape. He too denies the charge.

Another man has also been charged in connection with the case. Blane McIlroy, 26, of Royal Lodge Road, Belfast, is charged with one count of exposure. He denies the charge.

The Irish News, among other newspapers, reports on the unveiling of a portrait at Stormont to Martin McGuinness, a day after the anniversary of the former deputy first minister's death.

It says Michelle O'Neill, who succeeded Mr McGuinness as Sinn Féin's leader at Stormont, urged politicians across Northern Ireland to choose hope over fear as she unveiled the portrait with a "broken heart bursting with pride".

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption A portrait of Martin McGuinness has been unveiled at Stormont

Former DUP leader and first minister, Peter Robinson, who was in attendance, said political leaders will have to return to the negotiating table if a solution to the current impasse is to be found.

The unveiling of the portrait has not been welcomed in all quarters however.

Stephen Gault, who was injured in the Enniskillen bomb attack at the town's cenotaph in November 1987, tells the News Letter he is "sickened by the glorification" of the former IRA commander.

'Redundancy awards'

The Belfast Telegraph says former civil servants could be asked to pay back money from redundancy payments they received under a Voluntary Exit Scheme.

It says all 3,701 redundancy awards, which cost the taxpayer nearly £109m are being reviewed after it emerged some civil servants were paid too much in 2015 and 2016.

The Department of Finance has started issuing written requests for those affected, asking them to make arrangements to repay the money, which the Telegraph says in some cases exceeds £1,000.

The department has denied overpayments occurred as a result of any error, although the newspaper says it has seen one letter which states that "the old computer system miscalculated".

It also says the department is "obliged to seek recovery" in accordance with the manual for Managing Public Money.

The Daily Mirror reports that the South-Eastern Health and Social Care Trust has apologised to the family of a deaf man from County Antrim who had to tell him he was dying because a hospital did not provide a sign-language interpreter.

The trust has also paid £7,000 compensation to Thomas Carson's family. He was being treated in the Ulster Hospital at the time.

Mr Carson received the news he was terminally ill in late 2016 from his daughter, Jillian Shanks.

Ms Shanks said it was "distressing" for the family.

The trust said it was "grateful the Carson family accepted the apology".