Northern Ireland

Weekly papers: Town twinning, stolen parrot and Elvis in Downpatrick

Coleraine Chronicle Image copyright Coleraine Chronicle
Fermanagh Herald Image copyright Fermanagh Herald
Down Recorder front page Image copyright Down Recorder
Tyrone constitution
Ulster Gazette front page Image copyright Ulster Gazette

Twinning associations have been branded "quite elitist" by a Sinn Féin councillor, reports the Coleraine Chronicle.

The notion of twinning - known elsewhere as sister cities or friendship towns - is a tradition stretching back almost a century in the UK.

Cara McShane made the remarks during a debate about council funding. The council gives £14,700 between the four associations.

"I couldn't tell you who Limavady, Ballymoney and Coleraine are twinned with," she said.

Her impression of such associations was that they were like "gentlemen's clubs".

Instead she suggested creating a single council twinning association to save money.

However her remarks were met with a degree of incredulity from SDLP councillor John Deighan who said they were "unbelievable".

He did however agree that grants for local groups must be "transparent and accountable".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Adrian Petticrew watched the royal couple exchange vows in Windsor instead of bikes on the north coast

A North West 200 stalwart was in a recent right royal conundrum, the paper also tells us.

Adrian Petticrew has volunteered with St John's Ambulance at the races for the past 38 years and even met his wife there.

After receiving an invitation to Prince Harry and Meghan's wedding (aka Baron and Baroness Kilkeel), on the same day, he was faced with a dilemma.

However, it didn't take him long to side with the nuptials over the races.

"I hesitated for all of about 15 seconds," he says.

Despite rubbing shoulders with Posh and Becks, Mr Petticrew admits that he did miss the bikes.

On its front page, the Ballymena and Antrim Times reports that a GP practice in Ballymena has announced that it is planning to no longer accept new patients for up to a year.

Ballymena Family Practice, based in the town's Health and Care Centre on Cushendall Road, has said it does "not have the capacity to continue to take new patients on a weekly basis".

It has applied to the Health and Social Care (HSC) Board to close its current list.

The paper notes that the practice has been unable to fill a position following the retirement of one of its GPs, leaving the surgery with just one partner and almost 3,300 patients.

Practice manager Jayne Service said: "The main reason for applying to close our list is that we wish to safely look after and protect the patients who are already on the practice list."

'Quasi-Noah's Ark'

Inside the paper, there is a report on a man who has escaped a jail term after he admitted dishonestly receiving a stolen parrot known as 'Barney' and other animals including five birds, a python, six tortoises and a chameleon.

It was made clear in court that 32-year-old Darren McPeake had no role in the actual theft of the animals from a pet shop in Ballymena, which garnered considerable media attention at the time.

A defence solicitor said that his client had been approached and asked to take the animals, which he then kept in his home in the Lanntara housing estate in the town.

"It was somewhat strange that there was a quasi-Noah's Ark in Lanntara," the solicitor said.

"He wasn't very good at keeping them. I think five flew away."

Handing down a six-month jail term suspended for two years, District Judge Peter King told McPeake that the "only reason you are not going to prison is because you had a secondary role in this escapade".

Tyrone Constitution reports that a "brazen criminal gang" has targeted the farm of a family near Omagh and stole cash and machinery.

At least three thieves entered the property belonging to "well-known auctioneer and farmer", Richard Beattie.

The raid on the farm was captured on security cameras and showed the thieves walking "casually" around the yard.

All shook up

Image copyright Keystone/Getty Images

The King is alive - and he's singing in County Down! The Down Recorder reports on a mini Elvis from Downpatrick.

Jude Quinn, 10, wowed crowds at Downpatrick's Got Talent with a performance of "In the Ghetto".

Not only does he have a set of pipes on him, he's also potentially the next Rory Bremner as he performed a "well received" impression of none other than US President Donald Trump.

His mum tells the paper her son wasn't nervous in the slightest.

Jude is keen to follow Elvis into the entertainment industry, instead of President Trump into politics.

There's a striking image on page five of the paper. An abandoned boat, decaying and falling to pieces in Dundrum Bay.

The 30-tonne vessel which dates back to World War Two, is at the inner bay of the village and locals are worried about a potential danger to children who view the wreck as "an adventure playground".

According to the paper the council is due to rubber stamp the application for a marine licence, which will then allow them to get it removed.

Sinn Féin councillor Willie Clarke says he hopes the licence can be secured soon.

"I was initially keen to see it remain as it had become something of a landmark but since it started to break up action must be taken," he says.

One Fermanagh man is the envy of many young people after landing a top job at Manchester United.

The Fermanagh Herald leads with a story about Kieran McKenna, 32, who has been named first team head coach under Jose Mourinho.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Jose Mourinho's new head coach is from Fermanagh

Mr McKenna has always had footballing ambitions, having left home at age 15 to join Tottenham Hotspur to pursue his dream of playing professionally.

He secured a position as reserve team captain at Spurs, but his playing career came to an end at 21 after a chronic hip injury.

He changed direction and enrolled in a sports science course at Loughborough before taking up a post as head analyst at Spurs youth academy.

The Fermanagh Herald also has a story about families who are struggling to keep on top of council taxes on households.

It says that many are now making up the shortage with "payday loans".

Kevin Lawrenson from Fermanagh Citizens Advice told the newspaper that some residents cannot afford to pay their rate bills from years ago and that the pressure is continuing to mount.

Go for Gosford

Plans are afoot for a five star holiday destination at Gosford Forest Park in Markethill, the Ulster Gazette and Armagh Standard reports.

It looks like the project will cost about £2.1m. Facilities will include a multi-use trail system, an adventure play trail and extension to the existing car-park with paid parking.

It's understood there is broad agreement for this to happen as soon as possible, the paper reports.

A former deputy first minister has been award the freedom of the borough of Drogheda.

The SDLP's Seamus Mallon will received the honour during a ceremony in June.

The paper says it was warmly welcome by all but three Sinn Féin councillors, who voted against the move.

Deputy Mayor Cllr Pio Smith praised Mr. Mallon's work to "unite Protestant, Catholic and dissenter like true a republican".

Mr Mallon tells the paper he is "extremely honoured" by the recognition.