Northern Ireland

NI Newspaper review: Jackson and Olding decision angers fans

News Letter front page 16/04 Monday Image copyright News Letter

Ulster rugby fans' dismay at the departure of Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding is the story dominating Northern Ireland's newspapers on Monday.

The Belfast Telegraph kicks off five pages of coverage of the decision to revoke the players' contracts with the front-page headline: "Now angry Ulster fans plan boycott".

It reports that some fans are considering staying away from this week's home match with Glasgow.

Others, the paper says, are considering snubbing the team's colours or staging a "late walk-in" to the game.

"Former Ireland star issues warning to Ulster rugby" is the headline on the front page of the Irish News.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The careers of Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding have been under intense scrutiny since they were acquitted of rape

It reports that Ulster fans are "up in arms" over the decision to revoke the players' contracts, according to former Ulster and Ireland player Paddy Wallace.

Meanwhile, the News Letter's front page carries the view of another former Ulster and Ireland player, Neil Best, who says the players had been sacrificed "on the altar of sponsorship and money".

It was announced on Saturday that Mr Olding and Mr Jackson would leave Ulster Rugby after having their contracts revoked.

The men were found not guilty of raping a woman more than two weeks ago.

Irish rugby authorities revoked their contracts after a review, with the Belfast Telegraph reporting that "lewd text messages" that emerged during the course of the trial had cost the men their jobs.

The divisive nature of the latest news on the two men is summed up by the Telegraph, which has two commentators going head-to-head over whether the Irish Rugby Football Union's decision was the right one.

Bus attacks

In favour is Eilis O'Hanlon, who writes: "Sacking the two men "with immediate effect" could be seen as bowing to mob rule, but here's the thing. Sometimes the mob is right."

On the other side is Lindy McDowell, who describes the decision as being driven by sponsors "anxious to protect their own brand from any taint or hint or controversy".

Now, with the players set to leave Ulster, the Daily Mirror reports that French side Clermont Auvergne are favourites to sign Paddy Jackson.

Elsewhere in the news, the Mirror says that a west Belfast bus service route that was suspended for 18 months has once again been halted after attacks on buses.

Translink said the route has been withdrawn for the foreseeable future, while Sinn Féin councillor Daniel Baker told the Mirror that "the community is now paying the price for the actions of one or two individuals".

Back on the News Letter's front page, it reports that DUP MLA Jim Wells has produced an email that he says indicated a commitment by former First Minister Peter Robinson that he would be reinstated as health minister after his resignation three years ago.

Image caption Jim Wells said Peter Robinson made a commitment to return him to his old post as health minister

Mr Wells' claim was rejected by Mr Robinson, who had said he "did not make that promise" and that he "indicated that he (Mr Wells) was capable of coming back as a minister".

However, Mr Wells says the former DUP leader had "wrongly interpreted what was agreed".

The Irish News, meanwhile, says there are 21 new jobs available at the UK government's Border Force in Northern Ireland - but only UK passport holders are allowed to apply.

It reports that "only UK nationals" can apply for civil service jobs considered "reserved posts" because they often "require special allegiance to the crown".

However, SDLP MLA Claire Hanna told the paper it was "exclusionary and chilling".

Image caption Marathon man Ken Jones is still going strong

And finally, as if the thought of just getting out of bed on a Monday morning isn't exhausting enough, what about the 85-year-old set to tackle the London Marathon?

Strabane man Ken Jones hasn't missed the annual event since it began in 1981.

"There is only 10 of us left in the whole of England who have run every London Marathon and, of course, I am the oldest guy, all of the others are younger than me by five or 10 years."

This year, Ken plans to run the first five or six miles and walk the rest - a total of seven or so hours on the road.

"There are so many spectators and when you are feeling a bit low - during the last three miles you start to suffer a lot - all the crowds cheer you on.

"By the time you get to Parliament Square you are only a mile out, by the time you reach 25 miles you are feeling pretty rough."