NI paper review: Clinton's 'hell' warning, Neeson defiance

By Niall Glynn

Image source, Daily Mirror
Image source, News Letter

Twenty years on from its signing, the Good Friday Agreement gets widespread coverage in Tuesday's papers, but it's far from the only show in town.

The continuing fall-out from the rugby rape trial, a loyalist statement on criminality and controversy over a play-park name also make the news.

"Don't let Ulster go back to hell" is the eye-catching headline on the front page of the Daily Mirror.

Former US president Bill Clinton in the man behind the warning.

Mr Clinton's speech at University College Dublin on Monday night is covered in several of the papers.

He warned that two things could happen if the Good Friday Agreement is "let go".

"The whole thing will fall apart and you will go back into the hell that now people have forgotten from the Troubles," he said.

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Bill Clinton warned that dropping the Good Friday Agreement could lead to hell or purgatory for Northern Ireland

"Or, two, you can stay in purgatory, where you get denied dreams and broken hopes and you'll just rock along, caught on a sea of lost chances."

John Manley, political correspondent for the Irish News, writes that while the "cold peace" Northern Ireland has experienced is better than what went before, some of the agreement's failings are now coming home to roost.

"It's where the art of can kicking and constructive ambiguity were perfected, but with the benefit of hindsight we see that such fudges were only storing trouble further down the line," he says.

"Twenty years on from that historic Good Friday, we are still waiting for a collective political effort to make the agreement work."

'Partnership model corrupted'

Elsewhere in the paper, former SDLP leader Mark Durkan says he believes the current political impasse partly derives from the 2006 St Andrews Agreement, a view shared by current Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann in the Belfast Telegraph.

"The changes made at St Andrews totally corrupted the partnership model that was at the heart of the Belfast [Good Friday] Agreement," Mr Swann says.

Moving away from politics, the front page of the Telegraph returns to the continuing fall-out from the trial of Ulster Rugby's Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding, who were both cleared of rape last month.

The players remain suspended as the IRFU and Ulster review comments they made on a WhatsApp group.

Former Ulster flanker Neil Best tells the Telegraph that Ulster should apologise and "shoulder a shared responsibility for the character and behaviour of the young players it produces".

Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
Former Ulster flanker Neil Best said there must be an apology from Ulster Rugby

Another big story for the papers is the pledge from loyalist paramilitary organisations that they fully support the rule of law and that any members involved in crime will be expelled.

On the front page of the Irish News, Monica McWilliams who is on a panel appointed to report on the disbandment of paramilitaries said the loyalists must follow up their words with actions.

"There are people who are dinosaurs in mindset, if not in age, and it is time for organisations to get those people out of the picture and out of positions of influence," she warns.

'Not more chatter'

In the Belfast Telegraph, the paper's Suzanne Breen says "the public wants real change on the ground, not more chatter about it", while in the News Letter, while welcoming the statement, Chief Constable George Hamilton says the loyalist groups should just "go away".

On its front page, the News Letter says that unionists stormed out of a meeting of Newry and Mourne District Council on Monday night after the SDLP "sided with Sinn Féin to ensure a Newry playground remains named after an IRA gunman".

The playpark is named after Raymond McCreesh, who died on hunger strike, and who was arrested while carrying one of the guns used in the 1976 Kingsmills Massacre.

It says independent unionist Henry Reilly "bellowed" as he led other unionists out "this is a republican council for republicans".

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Liam Neeson is teaming up with local primary school children to name a new meeting place in Ballymena town centre

Finally, Ballymena has suffered a series of economic blows in recent years, but its most famous son is urging his home town to strike a defiant note.

Actor Liam Neeson is teaming up with local primary school children to name a new meeting place in the town centre.

He's quoted in the Daily Mirror and Belfast Telegraph: "How appropriate a wonderful new structure will be erected right bang in the middle of the town to be used as a gathering place, a place to shop, be entertained, meet the neighbours for a chat and a catch-up - set the world to rights.

"And also, more importantly, to show the world that we won't sit and lick our wounds after losing two vital industries."