Northern Ireland

NI paper review: The Portofino Pirate and undercover cops

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

Border polls, undercover infiltration and the "Portofino Pirate" feature in Friday's papers.

The Belfast Telegraph has the story of NI-based artist Larissa Watson who has been arrested in Italy for allegedly trying to steal a €150,000 yacht.

It happened in the resort of Portofino and has led to her being dubbed the 'Portofino Pirate' by Italian media.

Ms Watson allegedly climbed aboard the yacht, started the engine and was about to head out of port.

However, the 50-year-old was spotted by a harbour worker "who leapt aboard" and steered the yacht back to its mooring.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The exclusive Italian resort of Portofino

Both the News Letter and Daily Mirror lead with the Supreme Court ruling on Northern Ireland's abortion laws.

Pictured on the front of both papers is Sarah Ewart.

The NI woman travelled to England for an abortion after her baby was diagnosed with fatal foetal abnormality.

"The courts are in agreement that the law needs to be changed, so let's just do this," she says in the Mirror.

"Abortion reform more likely after court ruling," is the News Letter headline.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sarah Ewart appears on the front of both the News Letter and Daily Mirror

It says that the outcome of the Supreme Court case leaves open different possibilities as to what could happen next.

It says one is that the issue is returned to Stormont if and when an assembly returns.

But it says another possibility - one with both Conservative and Labour support - is that MPs impose more liberal abortion laws from Westminster.

The front page story in The Irish News is the death of County Antrim farmer Con Boyle, who it says passed away on Monday without ever receiving an apology over the killing of his 16-year-old son by the SAS.

John Boyle was shot in 1978 after returning, out of curiosity, to an arms dump he had found in a cemetery in Dunloy.

The teenager had found the weapons the previous day and his father had reported it to the police, the paper says.

Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption John Boyle, 16, was shot dead by soldiers in a County Antrim cemetery

However, rather than removing the guns, it says four SAS soldiers were sent to stake out the scene.

"My father didn't want vengeance, he wasn't that type of person, but he would have liked an apology," Mr Boyle's son Vincent told tells the paper.

The Belfast Telegraph leads with former DUP leader Peter Robinson's surprise call for fixed generational border polls.

It says Mr Robinson admits he had "pulled the pin out of the grenade" with the suggestion.

He also warned that a poll on a united Ireland based on a simple majority vote would be a "recipe for chaos".

Mr Robinson made the speech at Queen's University where he was appointed an honorary professor.

Image caption Former first minister Peter Robinson said he had "pulled the pin out of the grenade"

The paper says up to 40 academics at the university have expressed their "deep concern and profound regret" that Mr Robinson has received the honour.

They cite previous statements from Mr Robinson on homosexuality and Muslims.

Both the Telegraph and The Irish News report on the hate crime conviction of a man who drove over orange lilies outside a County Antrim Orange hall on three occasions.

Seamus McErlain's car was seen parked on top of the flower bed on two occasions, but each time the number plate was not visible.

However on a third occasion it was visible, leading to McErlain's prosecution.

The 54-year-old Dunloy man was fined £500 and ordered to pay £100 compensation.

Also in The Irish News is the story of infiltration of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement, Sinn Féin and Irish Civil Rights Solidarity Campaign by an undercover member of the Metropolitan Police's Special Demonstration Squad.

A former officer , who used the alias Sean Lynch, worked undercover between 1968 and 1974.

Former civil rights campaigner Eamon McCann said it was now obvious that intelligence officers were "infiltrating everything" at the time.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Eamon McCann there was a high level of paranoia in 1970s movements

"It was very difficult to judge what was real infiltration and what was not because there was a high level of paranoia," he added.

Following praise for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for his planned visit on Friday to the Orange Order headquarters in Belfast, the News Letter says he is being criticised by unionists for opening the Féile an Phobail in west Belfast.

Ulster Unionist Doug Beattie said he had no problem with the festival itself, but that some of the events romanticised terrorism.

TUV leader Jim Allister said the taoiseach opening the festival was "grossly insulting to victims of IRA terrorism".

However, Sinn Féin's Paul Maskey said the festival "represents everything that is good in west Belfast".

Finally the Belfast Telegraph says that award-winning actor Simon Callow has written a new play for the Lyric Theatre about his student days in Belfast.

Image caption Simon Callow said he was told to go home to England while handing out leaflets in Belfast

He says he was inspired to write the play by an incident when he was handing out leaflets for the People's Democracy movement.

One woman, who he says did not approve of the message, heard his English accent.

"Go home sonny, it's not your problem," she told him.

Callow said he reckoned 'Go Home Sonny' would be the perfect title for the one-man show he has penned.