Northern Ireland

NI weekly paper review: Hollywood stars and a soapbox derby

Banbridge Chronicle Image copyright Banbridge Chronicle
Impartial Reporter Image copyright Impartial Reporter
Mid-Ulster Mail Image copyright Mid-Ulster Mail
Ballymena Guardian Image copyright Ballymena Guardian
Northern Constitution Image copyright Northern Constitution
Ulster Gazette Image copyright Ulster Gazette

Hollywood actors, a soapbox derby, cruise ships in Magilligan and questions over the anonymity of sex crime accused all feature in Northern Ireland's weekly papers.

Following the acquittals of rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding, there has been debate around the anonymity of people accused of sexual crimes.

On its front page, the Banbridge Chronicle leads with solicitor Conleth Downey's call for a discussion on the issue.

Mr Downey's client, 23-year-old Jason Pyper from Dromore, faced allegations of rape and sexual assault over an alleged incident outside the Coach nightclub.

After a protracted legal process, earlier this week he was told the prosecution was offering no evidence and he was free to go.

"It has been an arduous three years in the public gaze for Mr Pyper, and it is obvious that the issue of anonymity in such cases should be re-evaluated," Mr Downey said.

The paper also reports that Belfast crime writer Paul McCracken is working on a new novel, the plot of which will include events taking place at The Boulevard and Solitude Park in Banbridge.

In County Fermanagh, The Impartial Reporter leads with the shocking picture of a bald patch on a woman's scalp after she was attacked in an Enniskillen pub.

Image copyright Impartial Reporter

The woman said she was punched by another woman she once viewed as a friend, before being dragged across the venue's dance floor by the hair.

She said her father was physically sick when he saw her injuries.

"My hair has been pulled right from the root," the woman said. "I'm so self-conscious of it, I'm not sure it will grow back."

The police have said they are investigating the incident.

The paper also reports on former US senator George Mitchell's return to the cross-border bridge named in his honour following the Good Friday Agreement.

The bridge, between Derrylin and Belturbet, which connects Fermanagh and Cavan, opened in April 1999.

In County Tyrone, the Mid Ulster Mail says that trees recently planted by a local community group and a primary school have been destroyed in a gorse fire thought to have been started deliberately.

Condemning the incident at Derrytresk, SDLP councillor Malachy Quinn described those responsible as "idiots".

Image copyright Mid-Ulster Mail
Image caption The people who started a gorse fire in Derrytresk have been described as "idiots"

"There is no question that this fire was deliberate and those who did it have no regard for the hard work being done by the community, the football club or the school," Mr Quinn said.

"There are also young birds and animals that would be using the moss for nesting who would not be able to escape these fires."

Also in the paper is news of the vandalism of bilingual street signs in Magheralfelt and parts of the Clogher Valley area.

The English place names have been painted out on the signs.

Meanwhile, Hollywood star Liam Neeson is lending a helping hand in his home town, the Ballymena Guardian says.

Primary school children in the town are to be given the opportunity to name a new outdoor entertainment hub and meeting place in the heart of the town - with the winner to be selected by the Schindler's List and Batman Begins star.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Liam Neeson may look angry but he's happy to help out his home town

The paper says Neeson admitted to being 'Taken' by the cutting edge bandstand structure.

He said it will 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".

Inside the Guardian, a witness describes the daylight theft of garments from a charity clothing bank in the town.

The witness said the thieves simply left the clothes they didn't want discarded on the ground.

In County Londonderry, the Northern Constitution leads with the possibility of cruise ships in Magilligan.

It says the Causeway Coast and Glens Council may hand over Magilligan harbour to the body behind ambitious plans for a cruise ship terminal in Lough Foyle.

Image copyright Geograph
Image caption Magilligan harbour may be hosting cruise ships in the future

Elected members approved opening formal discussions with Londonderry Port and Harbour Commissioners last month.

The green light was given after port authorities expressed an interest in acquiring the slipway and pier at Magilligan point.

Officials confirmed to the Constitution that the facilities would form part of "overall plans for a cruise ship terminal".

The council is facing a £218,000 bill for urgent repairs and a further investment of £1.25m to ensure the harbour's long-term survival.

Meanwhile, police are investigating an incident in which a tractor was driven into the side of an unoccupied house in the village of Feeny.

Significant damage was caused to the outside of the house at Cherry Lane. The tractor, which was taken from a nearby building site, was found a short time later abandoned on the outskirts of the village.

"Five-star Gosford" is the headline in the Ulster Gazette.

Image copyright Geograph
Image caption Gosford forest park could be in line for a £5m transformation

It says council plans to transform Gosford Forest Park in Markethill into a "five-star family-focussed holiday destination" have been revealed.

The £5m plan came before a meeting of an Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council committee on Monday night and includes the development of a visitor centre at a cost of £2.1m.

Other facilities include a multi-use trail system and an adventure play trail.

While the forest looks set to be developed, there are fears for the future of an annual race in the county.

The annual Tandragee Soapbox Derby is under threat due to a change in legislation.

Under new rules passed by Stormont officials, anyone wishing to host an event and close a road, requires a licence from council that costs £269, together with a further £1,080 for a specialist traffic management contractor.

That could prove a bit rich for the organisers, though considering how many people here like to get on their soapboxes you'd hope someone might come to the rescue.

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