Northern Ireland

NI newspaper review: Haunted by the past; spicing up the future

News Letter Image copyright News Letter
Daily Mirror Image copyright Daily Mirror

Three out of four of Northern Ireland's daily newspapers are leading with separate controversies over dealing with our troubled past.

A ruling that a former soldier, now in his 70s, must stand trial over the 1974 shooting of a man in County Armagh makes the News Letter's front page.

Dennis Hutchings denies attempting to murder John Pat Cunningham, who was shot in the back as he ran from troops.

The accused, who is in poor health, did not attend the pre-trial hearing.

The Belfast Telegraph leads with criticism of Sinn Féin's newest MP, Órfhlaith Begley, who has been accused of "double standards".

'Glorified murderers'

The 26 year old, who won the West Tyrone by-election last week, promised to "build bridges" and reach out a "hand of friendship" to unionists as she made her victory speech.

Image caption Sinn Féin's Órfhlaith Begley is the new MP for West Tyrone

The following day, she attended an IRA hunger strike memorial as her first public engagement as an MP and praised the "heroism" of the prisoners.

The 5 May event coincided with the anniversary of the death of Bobby Sands and Ms Begley said the hunger strikers had "set the moral compass for the rest of us to aspire to today".

Her speech was criticised by DUP MLA Tom Buchanan, who said the commemoration "glorified murderers" .

"Sinn Féin can talk the talk, but they don't walk the walk," he told the Telegraph.

The Irish News, meanwhile, continues its coverage of widely disputed claims by Prime Minister Theresa May over investigations into Troubles-related killings.

'Absolutely furious'

The PM told Parliament the inquiries were "patently unfair" because members of the armed forces were "the only people" facing investigation.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood tells the paper he is "absolutely furious" over the behaviour of both Mrs May and Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley in the Commons.

He says he has told Mrs Bradley she must "immediately correct the record".

However, Ulster Unionist Party MLA and former soldier Doug Beattie questions if the truth can ever be reached when some people will only accept one narrative of the Troubles - that it was "all the soldiers' fault".

In an opinion piece for the News Letter, Mr Beattie says a recent claim by the Ulster Volunteer Force, that one of their snipers was responsible for some of the Ballymurphy killings in 1974, was met with "ridicule" by those who blame the Army.

"No other possible version of events will be countenanced, even if it is true," he writes.

'Deny victims justice'

The MLA also points to a recent inquest into the death of pregnant teenager Marion Brown, who was shot dead as she kissed her boyfriend goodnight in 1972.

Mr Beattie says he would not dispute the coroner's verdict, that it was "more likely than not" that a soldier had fired the fatal shot.

Image caption Marian Brown was shot dead during an exchange of fire in June 1972

However, he questions what happened to the IRA unit which "instigated the exchange of fire".

"My concern is that the focus will always be on those who can provide information - the State - while those who acted without rules or safeguards casually walk away from the events they set in motion and in doing so, deny victims justice and survivors the truth."

The Daily Mirror leads with more details on an assault in which a woman was attacked with a drill in Strabane last week.

A court heard that the 17-year-old boy accused of the allegedly homophobic attack, was chanting INLA slogans when he was arrested close to the scene of the attack.

'Male friendship'

The depiction of a gay relationship during Ireland's performance at the Eurovision was censored by a Chinese broadcaster, reports the Irish News.

The staging of the song - Together - featured two male dancers and it was edited out of the broadcast by Mango TV - whose rules also prevent it from transmitting footage of people with tattoos.

The paper says Russian broadcasters were also expected to censor the Irish performance, but instead the commentator explained the dance signified "true male friendship".

Image copyright PA
Image caption A Lurgan man is opening a show for the Spice Girls

Homophobia is also a theme in the Mirror, which speaks to a Lurgan man who says he was bullied and "beaten to a pulp" as a teenager because he was gay.

He tells the paper he turned to the music of the Spice Girls for "peace and solace" to escape the "torture" during his younger years.

Since fleeing Lurgan for London at the age of 16, Conleth Kane has spiced up his life and is now described by the paper as a "West End star".

He will even perform for his childhood heroines at an event in London in July.

He tells the Mirror: "Mel C has invited me to perform at the VIP opening of the Spice Up London exhibition in Islington."