Newspaper review: Belfast gridlock and a very big fish

By Niall Glynn

News LetterImage source, News Letter

Gridlock in Belfast, Northern Ireland holiday-makers attacked by a knifeman and the world's largest skate all make headlines on Friday.

Anyone unfortunate to have been driving in Belfast on Thursday evening won't be surprised by the picture on the front of the Belfast Telegraph.

Photographer Kevin Scott's picture, taken from a drone, show cars bumper to bumper across the city.

A number of breakdowns and crashes contributed to the gridlock.

In its front page lead story, the paper reports on a leaked letter from the prime minister to DUP leader Arlene Foster.

It says the DUP is alarmed as the letter suggests a "major Brexit u-turn" by Theresa May.

The leaked letter, seen by the Times newspaper, states that the EU has proposed a plan to keep Northern Ireland tied to the customs union and single market if future trade negotiations are unsuccessful.

Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
Stephen Carson was murdered in Walmer Street in south Belfast in February 2016

All the Northern Ireland papers report on the convictions of three cousins over the murder of Belfast man Stephen Carson.

It says the murder of Mr Carson was linked to a clash in west Belfast three years earlier, in which one of the cousins was injured with a samurai sword.

Another man involved in that incident was later shot dead.

UDA-linked violence in Larne also appears in all the papers, with the News Letter making it its lead story.

The paper quotes PSNI Supt Darrin Jones, who says members of the public were put in "grave danger" and that police had to act as "a buffer" between rioters and civilians.

Image caption,
Bins were set alight and used as a burning barricade during trouble in Larne

East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson describes the violence as orchestrated and carried out by "a criminal gang going under the badge of the South East Antrim UDA".

He adds: "It's just mind-boggling that people behave in this way - put lives in jeopardy, put livelihoods in jeopardy and chase people away from their own locality."

Edinburgh is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities in the UK, but a disturbing attack on two Northern Ireland women in the Scottish capital features on the front page of the Daily Mirror.

The papers says the women, aged 58 and 60, were in their pyjamas and were smoking outside a hotel in the Grassmarket area when a man they had chatted to a few minutes previously attacked them with a knife.

One of the women suffered severe slash and stab injuries to her body while her friend suffered a serious wound to her face and mouth.

A hotel worker who tried to help them was also attacked.

Sir Ian McKellen will return to his Ballymena roots next year, the Belfast Telegraph reports.

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Sir Ian McKellen will take to the stage in Ballymena

McKellen, whose great-great grandfather was an evangelical Protestant preacher in the town, will appear on stage at the Braid Arts Centre as part of an 80-date tour of the UK to celebrate his 80th birthday next year.

Turning to local politics, in his Irish News column Alex Kane focuses on the future prospects of the SDLP.

He says following the St Andrews Agreement the British and Irish governments decided it was important to "get the DUP and Sinn Féin into top dog positions" and "made the deliberate decision to shaft both the UUP and SDLP".

He says the SDLP requires "serious, brutal analysis of their predicament".

James McClean's decision not to wear a poppy seems to make headlines every year.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Stoke winger James McClean has been sent "abusive packages"

Both the Irish News and News Letter report on abusive packages sent to the Derry man and Republic of Ireland international footballer.

The DUP's Gregory Campbell, often a critic of McClean, condemns the threats, saying: "Regardless of anyone's political views, they should not be subjected to physical threats."

Finally, it seems a very big fish has been swimming in the waters off Portrush.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
A huge skate has been caught off the north Antrim coast of

The Belfast Telegraph has a picture of an 8ft 3ins long skate caught off the north Antrim coast by angler Hamish Currie.

The paper says the fish was 7ft wide and weighed 300lbs, smashing the previous record of a "208lb giant" caught off the Scottish coast in 2014.

Mr Currie, who is originally from Ayrshire, said he won't be given the world record for a catch, but rather the world catch and release record.

"I didn't kill it and I'm not going to kill a fish for the record, I'm not prepared to do that," he said.