Northern Ireland

Weekly paper review: Rat raid on estate and double stabbing

Front page of the Antrim Guardian Image copyright Antrim Guardian
Front page of the Newry Democrat Image copyright Newry Democrat
Front page of The Impartial Reporter Image copyright The Impartial Reporter
Image caption Front page of The Impartial Reporter
Front page of the Strabane Chronicle Image copyright Strabane Chronicle
Image caption Front page of the Strabane Chronicle
Front page of the Portadown Times Image copyright Portadown Times
Image caption Front page of the Portadown Times
Front page of the Coleraine Chronicle Image copyright Coleraine Chronicle

A housing estate plagued by rats, a double stabbing, and a "surgery stand-off" are among the stories covered in this week's weekly newspapers.

The Antrim Guardian reports that rats "as big as dogs" have descended on a housing estate in the town, and angry residents are demanding urgent action to "stamp out the revolting rodents once and for all".

The newspaper says a newly-informed environmental group in Ballycraigy has revealed parts of the estate are now so badly infested, that locals feel forced to "physically drive the marauding menace from their property".

"One local man felt that he had no option but to kill one of the rats himself," a Ballycraigy Environmental Department Association spokesman said.

"He owns a Jack Russell dog, and the rat was bigger than it.

"It is a pretty horrendous state of affairs when you have residents who feel they have no option but to kill large rodents that are spreading unchecked."

Image copyright Barcroft Media/Getty Images
Image caption Rats are posing a problem in Ballycraigy in Antrim

Elsewhere, the newspaper reports that a generous businessman has offered a young Antrim addict the chance to beat his drug dependency.

Previously, the paper had spoken to the 19-year-old who was addicted to cocaine.

"It was the first thing I thought about in the morning and the last thing I thought about at night," he said. "I lived and breathed it.

"At its worst, I was spending £150 a day on coke."

It is understood a wealthy businessman has agreed to pick up the bill to send the teenager on a 28-day rehab programme at The Hygrove in Gloucester.

Image copyright Kevin McAuley
Image caption Two women were treated in hospital after they were stabbed during an incident in Coleraine

The Coleraine Chronicle's front page highlights an incident in which two women were left seriously injured after being stabbed in the town.

A 17-year-old boy was arrested following the attack near Beresford Avenue last Sunday night. He has since been charged with attempted murder.

Both women, aged 22, were treated in hospital for serious but not life-threatening injuries, police said.

Police have appealed for information following the attack.

The paper also reports that Coleraine witnessed a rise in footfall during the crucial Christmas trading period compared to last year.

'Redress process'

Jamie Hamill, manager of Coleraine Business Improvement District, said the town centre's festive footfall figures had increased by 34,000 compared to December 2017.

Mr Hamill added that footfall figures had risen by 3,500 during the three Sundays in December when free parking was available.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption The Stormont institutions collapsed in January 2017

On the front page of the Newry Democrat, solicitor Kevin Winters describes the impact of no devolved government at Stormont on victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse as "a disaster".

The paper says 10 February is the date by which the views of all interested parties on draft legislation required to implement recommendations in the Historical Institutional Abuse report must be submitted.

Mr Winters said that without the Stormont executive "reconvening and sitting, the necessary legislative effect to the redress process isn't going to happen".

He told the Newry Democrat that his firm, KRW Law, are considering appealing to the UK government.

"We are considering making a direct legal move straight to Westminster to see if there's any legal viability in forcing Westminster to take up this issue and if you like, bypassing the current political impasse that exists in this jurisdiction," he added.

Elsewhere in the paper, tributes are paid to Camlough man Seán Byrne, who was one of two men who died after separate falls while walking in the Mourne Mountains in County Down last weekend.

Mr Byrne had been a treasurer and trustee at Craobh Rua Camlocha hurling club, and was walking with a friend to take photographs on Wee Binnian when the incident happened.

The club said his death had "devastated us all".

There have also been tributes to retired PSNI Superintendent Robbie Robinson, from Banbridge, who died after falling while walking on Slieve Commedagh.

Image copyright Craobh Rua Camlocha/Pacemaker
Image caption Seán Byrne and Robbie Robinson died in separate incidents

The Impartial Reporter says there is "much uncertainty" in County Fermanagh this week after a private conversation between Irish government ministers about border checks in the advent of a Brexit no-deal scenario was caught on microphone.

It claims Tánaiste (Irish Deputy Prime Minister) Simon Coveney was heard indicating to Transport Minister Shane Ross that border checks would be necessary if there was a Brexit no-deal, "but we can't get into where they'll be".

Mr Coveney later told the Irish Independent newspaper "we are not planning to put checks on the border".

Staff shortages

The Impartial Reporter also highlights a shortfall in social workers in County Fermanagh, in a separate story.

It says nine social workers are employed full-time within the county and that a total of 19 would be required to take "the team to its full capacity".

The Western Health and Social Care Trust acknowledged "services have been affected due to staff shortages".

The trust said it had to "prioritise the cases requiring allocation based on those families identified as being in greatest need" and that "all child protection cases are currently allocated".

A "dramatic stand-off" at an out-of-hours surgery on the Craigavon area hospital site makes the front page of the Portadown Times.

An ambulance and two fire engines were sent to the scene on Wednesday morning, after police received a report at about 08:35 GMT regarding a patient causing a disturbance.

The Portadown Times says there were concerns for the man's safety and staff from the Southern Health Trust were involved with the PSNI in negotiating with him.

Police said the man was subsequently taken to safety and "there have been no reports of any injuries".

Image caption An incident at an of-hours surgery on the Craigavon area hospital site features on the front page of the Portadown Times

The Strabane Chronicle's front page focuses on a planned tribute by Glasgow Celtic fans to a baby girl who died at 10 months.

Beibhinn Hegarty-Devine, who had battled Mitochondrial Disease, died earlier this month.

Symptoms of the disease, which vary, include loss of muscle coordination, seizures, vision loss, hearing loss and organ failure.

The newspaper says Beibhinn's father, Kevin Hegarty, and his partner Carla Devine, spent eight months by her bedside after she was originally admitted to hospital with a vomiting bug.

Mr Hegarty said a social media appeal had been made to pay tribute to his daughter at Celtic's Scottish Cup game against Airdrie this weekend.