Northern Ireland

NI paper review: Devastation caused by two knife murders

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

The devastation caused by two knife murders and a warning by dissident republicans feature in Friday's papers.

That warning is carried inside the Belfast Telegraph, which reports that it received a letter from a group describing itself as "the republican movement".

The letter was attached to a photo of three men in paramilitary clothing, two of whom appear to be holding guns.

It comes after a bomb and series of security alerts in Londonderry.

In the letter, the group warned that it had "no option than to take military action" against drug dealers and that the group will be "actively targeting crown forces as we have always done".

Meanwhile, the brother of a Syrian refugee killed in Belfast tells The Irish News his parents broke down in tears when told the killer had been sentenced to life.

Hazem Ahmed Ghreir was stabbed to death in Downshire Place off Great Victoria Street in June 2017.

On Thursday, Callon Wilson, 20, pleaded guilty to murdering Mr Ghreir.

Mr Ghreir's brother Rami praised the justice system, saying: "I believe now everything my father told me about the law in the UK."

The brothers had fled war-torn Aleppo and came to Belfast in 2015 to start a new life.

Image copyright Ghreir family
Image caption Hazem Ahmed Ghreir was in his 30s and originally from Aleppo in Syria

"My brother was very gentle, very kind. The smile didn't leave his face. Everybody loved him," Mr Ghreir said.

Both the Belfast Telegraph and the News Letter lead with another horrific knife murder from 2017.

"Tears in court as Christmas killer admits guilt" is the Telegraph's headline.

On Thursday, 20-year-old Nathan Ward admitted the murder of Jayne Toal Reat and the attempted murder of her daughter Charlotte in Lisburn on Christmas Day 2017.

The Telegraph says that Charlotte sobbed as Ward admitted his guilt at Craigavon Crown Court.

Charlotte Reat witnessed the attack on her mother, who died in her daughter's arms.

Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Jayne Reat was murdered on Christmas Day 2017

The News Letter also describes the emotional scenes in the court and says while Charlotte cried, Ward stood "seemingly impassive" in the dock.

While Ward, who also admitted attacking his own father, was given a life sentence, the minimum tariff will be decided after the judge consults psychiatric, probation and victim impact reports.

Emergency waiting times

"Worst in history" is the front page headline of the Daily Mirror and, worryingly, it refers to Northern Ireland's accident and emergency departments.

The paper says that Northern Irish patients wait significantly longer than those in the rest of the UK to be treated in A&E.

Statistics show that just 62% are seen within the target of four hours compared to 79% in England and 89% in Scotland.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Northern Irish patients wait significantly longer than those in the rest of the UK to be treated in A&E

The official target for the UK is 95%.

"Last year doctors in England were warning patients they were dying as a result of slightly deteriorating hospital performance times," Ulster Unionist Roy Beggs tells the Mirror.

"I shudder to think what those same doctors would say about the fact Northern Ireland's rate fell to just 62% last month."

Inside, the Mirror says that police have issued a warning after a drone was flown close to Belfast City Airport.

It says one person was spoken to after the drone was seen at Heron Road, about 1km from the airport's runway.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A drone was spotted close to Belfast City Airport

A spokesman for Belfast Harbour Police said the operator was filming promotional material at the time.

Paisley 'witch hunt'

Ian Paisley's wife features in a number of the papers, as she claims there is a "witch hunt" against her husband.

"Lay off Paisley says MP's wife," is the headline in the News Letter.

Fiona Paisley took to the News Letter's Facebook page to defend the North Antrim MP after he was criticised for billing a charity for first class flights to New York.

"For goodness sake will you ever lay off the witch hunt and let him get on with his job," she wrote

"Believe me he is doing so much more than any MLA not sitting up at Stormont but continuing to claim their salary."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland has been backed by Boris Johnson

Meanwhile, an Ulster University economist tells the Irish News that a £21bn bridge linking Northern Ireland and Scotland may not be economically worthwhile.

Esmond Birnie raises doubts about the viability of a 30-mile bridge across the North Channel.

The former UUP politician said: "I think it is hard to see how the quantified (and properly discounted) economic benefits could in fact exceed the costs."

The report highlights that former foreign secretary Boris Johnston has backed the bridge, while DUP leader Arlene Foster told an Orange Order parade in Scotland about the "growing support" for the bridge.

Holiday cruise 'nightmare'

Finally, the Belfast Telegraph reports that a Carrickfergus couple are making waves after their dream Asian cruise turned into a holiday nightmare.

Bobby and Mary Jackson claim that when they opened their cabin door they found a naked couple in their bed.

They say crew members told them the man worked on the boat, while the identity of the woman remained a mystery.

"I was traumatised and needed a glass of water," Mrs Jackson said, while her husband added: "We are not prudes, but this was ridiculous."

They said they were told no alternative cabin was available as the cruise was fully booked.

Mrs Jackson said she later picked up a stomach bug and had to spend much of the rest of the cruise in her room, at one stage with an antibiotic drip attached.

The paper says that it was initially reported that Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) had investigated and taken "appropriate action".

However, the company later issued a statement to news outlets in America saying that a review of security footage on the ship did not corroborate the Jacksons' claims.