Northern Ireland

NI paper review: Paisley flight costs explanation disputed

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Ian Paisley's travel expenses feature prominently in Wednesday's papers.

Mr Paisley faced criticism last week for billing a charity nearly £6,000 to fly to a New York conference.

He said he flew first class - when other attendees flew economy - as he was invited "at the last minute".

However, both The Irish News and Belfast Telegraph report Mr Paisley was listed as a panellist at the peace conference two weeks before he travelled.

The Irish News also says it has seen correspondence from Co-operation Ireland to participants - including Mr Paisley - from three weeks before the event saying it would "reimburse your coach (economy) airfare".

The paper says that Mr Paisley said Co-operation Ireland agreed to cover the £6,000 cost of the flights because he was invited to attend "just a couple of days before travelling".

It says that neither Mr Paisley nor the DUP responded to requests for comment on Tuesday night.

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Image caption Ian Paisley said his attendance at the event was only confirmed "at the last minute"

The Belfast Telegraph says Mr Paisley spoke at the 20 Years of Peace conference alongside former SDLP MP Mark Durkan and ex-Sinn Féin MP Pat Doherty.

The Telegraph said when it contacted Mr Paisley, he said his attendance was only confirmed on the panel two days before the event.

"I am not responsible for for what is said or speculated about me," he said.

"I only confirmed my attendance at the NYC event after it was confirmed that I could meet my previous engagements the day before [at Westminster] travelling and the day after the event when I had to be in Northern Ireland.

"And not before the costs were confirmed."

He added: "Most sane people would understand that sort of scheduling has an impact on costs."

Brexit and the prospects of a hard border is the lead story in the News Letter.

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Image caption Taoiseach Leo Varadkar insisted there would be no hard border

"Dublin and Brussels split on hard border" is the headline.

"It says when he was asked on Tuesday what would happen if there was a no deal Brexit, European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said it was "pretty obvious you will have a hard border".

The paper says that soon afterwards Taoiseach Leo Varadkar issued a statement that "even in a no deal, there will not be a return to a border".

However, it says "further cracks in the Irish position appeared" when Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said that while Dublin would not support a hard border, "if we don't have a withdrawal agreement it becomes very difficult to prevent that".

The DUP's Sammy Wilson dismissed Mr Schinas' statement on the border as "bluffing", adding that "there won't be a hard border".

Hospital 'rampage'

"Disgrace as teen gangs on rampage in hospital" is the headline on page 4 of the Daily Mirror.

Image caption The Daily Mirror says youths are "running riot" at the Royal Victoria Hospital

It says teenagers "off their heads on drugs are running riot" at the Royal Victoria Hospital in west Belfast.

The paper reports that teenagers are gathering in the hospital's reception area, corridors and stairwells to access free wifi, charge phones and, at times, take drugs.

It says in one incident last week a group threw chairs at each other in the canteen, while graffiti and burn marks on the walls have had to be painted over.

A Belfast Trust spokesperson tells the paper it's an ongoing issue that "adds to the distress of patients and visitors".

"Security staff at the Royal Victoria Hospital have dealt with an increase in anti-social behaviour by a small group of youths in the last few weeks," the spokesperson said.

Troubles poet

The Belfast Telegraph has a two-page tribute to Belfast poet Padraic Fiacc who has died aged 94.

The paper says Mr Fiacc sometimes faced criticism for his work reflecting on the Troubles.

However, in a tribute, the Arts Council's Damien Smyth said that the poet found a way "to write about horror that was frank, humane, fair generous, without vindictiveness and with considerable and enviable skill".

The Irish News reports that the extradition of a man wanted for a 1998 murder in Dungannon is to go ahead after a six-year legal battle.

Francis Lanigan had been living in Dublin under an assumed name, but his identity was confirmed after an undercover detective carried out a covert DNA test on a coffee cup Mr Lanigan had used at a gym.

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Image caption Northern Ireland had its first major snow showers of the winter on Tuesday

Finally the News Letter features pictures of Northern Ireland's first snow of the winter.

The pictures include sheep feeding in a snowy field in the Glens of Antrim, commuters struggling through the winter showers to get home and, of course, kids enjoying every minute of the unexpected opportunity to throw a few snowballs.