Northern Ireland

Friday's headlines: Belfast bounces back and Gatwick on hold

Daily Mirror front page Image copyright Daily Mirror
News Letter front page Image copyright News Letter

Belfast bouncing back after the Primark fire leads the Belfast Telegraph on Friday.

The newspaper cites figures obtained by the Press Association which indicates that shoppers are returning to the city centre.

Footfall for the week beginning December 10 was up 19% on the same period in 2017 and up 7% on the previous week.

It is also reported that Friday 14 December was the busiest shopping day of the year.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Thousands of passengers have had their travel plans disrupted

Following an incident at Gatwick Airport, a drone expert has warned that Northern Ireland airports could be vulnerable to a "copycat incident", according to the Belfast Telegraph.

Thousands of passengers were stranded at Gatwick after its runway was shut from Wednesday night, when drones were seen flying over the perimeter fence.

Belfast International Airport declined to comment to the newspaper on security matters, but City of Derry Airport said it had systems in place to tackle such issues.

Gatwick's runway reopened on Friday morning.

Killer cousins

The sentencing of two cousins who carried out the "cold-blooded" murder of father-of-two Stephen Carson is on the front page of the Irish News.

Michael 'Spud' Smith, 40, and David 'Dee Dee' Smith, 35, were told on Thursday that they will spend at least 20 years in prison.

Stephen Carson, 28, died after being shot in the head through a bathroom door in his home on Walmer Street in south Belfast in February 2016.

"We are just not the same any more, everything has changed - his son is just not the same wee boy," Mr Carson's mother said after the sentencing.

Image copyright PSNI
Image caption Stephen Carson was murdered at his home in south Belfast in 2016

Health trusts are preparing for a "difficult" winter and are introducing plans to alleviate pressures on staff, the Irish News reports.

The initiatives have been announced ahead of a review of hospital emergency care by the Department of Health. T

This includes an extra £2.27m for GP services; a pharmacy consultation service for minor winter ailments; a new 'Emergency Care Village' featuring temporary additional accommodation at Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital; and a scheme to enhance care at home.

'A con trick'

Alongside a photograph of the Queen beginning her Christmas break in Norfolk, the News Letter's front page features the DUP claiming that warnings of a hard border are "a con trick".

The Irish government is prioritising planning for a no-deal Brexit.

Its document outlines plans for 19 sectors should the UK leave the EU without a withdrawal deal.

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said the EU's no deal plans "totally avoids spelling out what happens on the border".

Image copyright Getty Images

The News Letter also reports that police have arrested 151 motorists on suspicion of drink-driving during the first two weeks of this year's festive campaign to combat drink-driving.

The preliminary figure is three fewer than during the same period last year.

The operation will go on across Northern Ireland over Christmas and New Year.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The airliner exploded and crashed over Lockerbie on 21 December 1988

The 30th anniversary of the Lockerbie bombing dominates the Daily Mirror's front page.

It reports claims that Iran paid a Palestinian leader to carry out the attack.

On 21 December 1988, a Pan Am flight from London to New York exploded 31,000 feet over Lockerbie, in Scotland, 38 minutes after take-off from London.

The 259 people on board the Boeing 747 were killed, along with 11 people on the ground.

'Stuck'

And there's "Christmas heartache" for Billy Caldwell, from Castlederg in County Tyrone.

Billy, 13, has severe epilepsy and has been using medicinal cannabis to treat his condition.

The Daily Mirror has an interview with Billy's mother, Charlotte, who says the family are stuck in Canada.

In November the pair travelled to Calgary to seek new medication but Ms Caldwell says they cannot return home because no one in the UK will write Billy's new prescription.

In July officials at Heathrow Airport confiscated Billy's cannabis oil, which Ms Caldwell had been attempting to bring into the UK from Canada.