Northern Ireland

NI weekly papers: Drugs nightmare and RAF freedom row

Antrim Guardian Image copyright Antrim Guardian
Mourne Observer Image copyright Murne Observer
Fermanagh Herald front page Image copyright Fermanagh Herald
Coleraine Chronicle Image copyright Coleraine Chronicle
Strabane Chronicle Image copyright Strabane Chronicle
Portadown Times

Northern Ireland's weekly papers feature the impact of drugs on a town, teacher assaults and alleged thieves dubbed Hank and Marv.

The Antrim Guardian leads with what it calls the town's "drug nightmare".

Tracy Bell, who lost her brother Gary to heroin addiction 20 years ago, told a crowded meeting last week that drug dealers were grooming young people into a life of addiction and misery.

The paper says she told the crowd that teenagers - both male and female - had been raped over drug debts.

She said children as young as 15 are using crack cocaine and many get their drugs through the post.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A campaigner has said that Antrim is in the grip of a drugs nightmare

More affluent heroin users are injecting themselves in the groin so the marks are not visible, the paper says.

However, the campaigner said that, with community support, the war on drugs has not been lost.

Meanwhile, a petition has been launched in the town over a council ban on the owners of a local pet shop feeding wild birds outside the premises.

The Guardian says that more than 600 people have signed it so far.

The Fermanagh Herald reports that teachers at both post primary and primary schools across the county are being attacked by pupils.

It says of the more than 100 pupils suspended during the 2016/17 academic year, 10 were for physical attacks on staff. Two of those were at primary schools.

Other suspensions happened due to assaults on other pupils, substance abuse and thefts. The figures were originally published by website thedetail.tv.

Image copyright ©INPHO/Tommy Dickson
Image caption Fermanagh have reached their first Ulster GAA final in 10 years

Fermanagh's victory over Monaghan, which saw them reach the Ulster GAA final for the first time in 10 years, gets widespread coverage in the paper.

It asks readers if they would give up their summer holidays in exchange for a win in the final.

But it also notes that Palestinian flags being flown at the game by some spectators were not removed - as GAA regulations state they should have been - "in the interest of health and safety".

In County Down, the Mourne Observer talks to a woman who endured years of sexual abuse by maths tutor Patrick Carton, who has been jailed for 13 years.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Patrick Carton was convicted of abusing children he tutored

"He may have taken my teenage years, but he'll never win," she tells the paper.

"Justice has been served and we are delighted the truth is out."

The woman was abused for five years by Carton, when she was aged between 14 and 19.

"I feel like a massive weight has been lifted off my shoulders, I have a new lease of life," she adds.

Meanwhile, a 100-year-old church clock in the centre of Rostrevor has been vandalised.

Kilbroney church is currently being renovated and it seems someone climbed up the scaffolding - which is several storeys high - sometime late at night to cause the damage.

Booze seized

In the Portadown Times, the police defend the seizure of alcohol from spectators at a band parade in Markethill.

Victims campaigner Willie Frazer criticised the PSNI, saying they had "spoilt and soured" the family nature of the event.

Image copyright PSNI
Image caption Drink seized during a band parade in Markethill

However, police said that "a few individuals have chosen to capitalise on their own lack of knowledge of the law to paint us as, in some mysterious way, 'heavy handed'".

They said this was "quite possibly for a point-scoring exercise, but certainly out of step with the organisers and those truly associated with the event".

Meanwhile, the community in Poyntzpass has been praised for rallying around a family left homeless after a fire at their Aughan Park home.

Stephen Bernes also praised John O'Hare, the partner of his ex-wife, for saving her life and those of her three children Kaylagh, Lauren and Sophie.

Hank and Marv

In County Tyrone, the Strabane Chronicle leads with the arrest of two suspected car thieves dubbed Hank and Marv by police - in reference to Home Alone's Sticky Bandits' characters.

The pair were being questioned about offences in Strabane, Londonderry and Donegal, with bank cards and "a large amount of cash" among the items stolen.

In an emoji-filled post on their Strabane Facebook page, police said that after information given to them by several witnesses "our officers swooped and caught them red handed....[literally as Hank managed to cut himself during their crime spree]".

They added: "Hank and Marv are currently taking advantage of our fine cuisine and 5* accommodation at Hotel Strand Road and will be there for a while assisting us with our enquiries."

Staying with the police, the paper says there has been a mixed reaction to the announcement that Castlederg PSNI station is to be retained as a "precautionary step" over Brexit.

Image copyright Google Maps
Image caption Castlederg PSNI station is to be retained as a "precautionary step" over Brexit

It is one of three stations whose sale has been put on hold.

Ulster Unionist Derek Hussey said the move would reassure "those vulnerable, elderly and isolated members of our community".

However, Sinn Féin's Ruairi McHugh described the station as a "heavily militarised blot on the landscape" and said the majority of people in the area had been delighted to see its closure.

The Coleraine Chronicle reports that a Causeway Coast and Glens Council motion to grant the freedom of the borough to the RAF split councillors down the middle on sectarian lines.

The motion, brought forward by the DUP, was passed by the council on Tuesday night.

The DUP's James McCorkell, who proposed it, said it was the RAF's connection to Limavady that provided the motivation for it.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Causeway Coast and Glens Council have awarded the RAF the freedom of the borough

"The RAF and the men and women who served in the RAF, and indeed their families, are intertwined in the DNA of our community," he said.

However, Sinn Féin's Kieran Mulholland said his party could not endorse a move that honoured a branch of the British armed forces, while the SDLP opposed it on the basis of its cost to rate-payers.

The paper also reports on concerns that tensions are being raised in Coleraine ahead of the Twelfth.

A PUP councillor says that two attempts have been made to prematurely light 11 July bonfires in the Ballysally area, while tricolours have also been erected in the Heights area.