Northern Ireland

NI Newspaper review: RHI apology and tributes to Big Tom

News Letter front page 18/04 Image copyright News Letter

An apology at the inquiry into Northern Ireland's failed RHI energy scheme, more fallout from the rugby rape trial and tributes to "the king of country" Big Tom McBride are among the stories making Wednesday's daily newspapers.

We start with the News Letter, which leads with RHI on its front page.

"Spad: I'm sorry I sent RHI paper to relative" is the headline and concerns Andrew Crawford, a former advisor to Arlene Foster.

He apologised at the inquiry for sending a confidential government document to his cousin but said it was not given over in order to give his relative an advantage.

The inquiry heard that Dr Crawford was pressed on how and why he sent the material, particularly as he had done so before it was cleared by either himself or Mrs Foster.

Image copyright RHI Inquiry
Image caption Andrew Crawford was a special advisor to former Enterprise Minister through the RHI scheme's design and implementation

The latest RHI revelations are covered in two pages in the Irish News, with John Manley writing that recent testimony had resulted in "the most sensational few days of evidence since the probe began last November".

He adds that the evidence given by Dr Crawford and Arlene Foster have "drawn a picture of a department that was, in Sir Patrick's words, close to "dysfunctional"'.

"If the public's opinion of their time at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment is to be anything but damning, they will need to produce some major piece of redeeming evidence," he writes.

Meanwhile, the Irish News' front page focuses on a former rising star of Armagh GAA who appeared in court accused of threatening to stab a taxi driver during a robbery.

'Willingness to change'

The court heard that Robert Tasker, 26, of St Patrick's Park Cullyhanna, is alleged to have told the Dundalk taxi driver "not to move or I'll slash your throat" and also threatened to rape him.

He and co-accused Antion McCooey, 25, from a different address in St Patrick's Park, Cullyhanna, deny all four charges against them.

The continuing fallout from the trial of rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding features again on the front page of the Belfast Telegraph.

"Rugby chiefs to meet with Women's Aid" is the headline, with the paper reporting that Ulster Rugby and the IRFU will meet with the head of the support group, who described the move as signalling "a willingness to change".

Inside, on pages four and five, the paper covers the latest developments including comments by Ulster player Rob Herring that the team were sad to see them leave the club.

The Daily Mirror also devotes an inside page to the story, but focuses on the view of former Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll who said that rugby bosses had no choice but to revoke the pair's contracts.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Brian O'Driscoll says he feels the IRFU had no choice but to revoke the contracts of Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding

"You can probably only speculate whether it is based on moral or commercial grounds," he said.

"I'd imagine probably a bit of both but there is no doubt, which is well documented in the papers at the weekend, there was pressure from sponsors.

"I think from the IRFU's perspective they were left with no option but to sever ties with Stuart and Paddy."

Elsewhere, the Daily Mirror devotes two pages to country music legend Big Tom McBride, who died on Tuesday aged 81, under the headline "He was the greatest".

Daniel O'Donnell, Philomena Begley and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar were among those to pay tribute to one of the most popular musicians in Ireland.

Image caption Big Tom McBride was inducted into the Irish Country Music Awards Hall of Fame in June 2016

In the News Letter, Billy Kennedy wrote that Big Tom's death "removes from the Irish music scene one of the most popular entertainers of the past 50 years" and that he would be "mourned far beyond these shores".

The Belfast Telegraph likewise carries its own tributes to Big Tom, with Nathan Carter, one of the biggest Irish country stars, writing about how he was honoured to support the Monaghan man early in his career.

Final word goes to the newspaper's editorial, which sums up the how Big Tom will be remembered.

"He leaves behind him a rich legacy of his music - and there is no doubt that the songs he made famous will continue to be played for many years to come by his countless fans."