Northern Ireland

NI paper review: Theresa May speech gets lukewarm response

News Letter Image copyright News Letter

One woman is prominent on the front pages of Wednesday's papers.

Theresa May's visit to Northern Ireland is the lead story in the Belfast Telegraph, the Irish News and the News Letter.

It's fair to say none of the papers give the prime minister's speech in Belfast a ringing endorsement.

While the News Letter and Belfast Telegraph have pictures of Mrs May on their front pages, the Irish News features a cartoon from Ian Knox.

It shows a tremulous Mrs May speaking one word: "Unshakeable", a reference to her stated commitment to avoiding a hard border after Brexit

The paper's political correspondent, John Manly, describes the prime minister's address as a "pastiche".

Image copyright PA
Image caption Theresa May is on a two-day visit to Northern Ireland

He says Mrs May "sought to give everybody hope, but left few in the room sharing her optimism".

He adds: "Her visits are meant to provide reassurance that Northern Ireland is a priority in the mouth of Brexit, yet the fact that we get a different message each time only leaves us confused."

'Banalities and clichés'

The Belfast Telegraph says that the prime minister denied "stabbing" Northern Ireland's business leaders in the back over the border backstop.

The paper's Suzanne Breen says that everyone acknowledges that Mrs May is the victim of parliamentary arithmetic.

"But she certainly isn't skilled in playing a bad hand well," she writes.

"Her speech was brimming with banalities and clichés dressed up as something meaningful and new."

The Telegraph's Ed Curran writes that there is "still time for politicians on this side of the Irish Sea, both north and south, to save our island from the utter madness of a no-deal".

"PM repeats NI pledges but no Brexit clarity" is the headline in the News Letter.

"As an exercise in eloquent evasiveness, Theresa May's speech was in keeping with how she has approached the entire Brexit negotiations," the paper's Sam McBride says.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The News Letter says Arlene Foster has given Mrs May some hope

However, he adds: "The significance of yesterday's event was not so much the substance of what was said, but the symbolism of the fact that at this 11th hour of the process, the prime minister was coming to Belfast to address the people of Northern Ireland and staying overnight to meet their political leaders."

He says there is hope for the prime minister after DUP leader Arlene Foster refused to say on Tuesday that she is still demanding the removal of the backstop.

Neeson fall-out

Another person who has been prominent in the news in the last couple of days is of course Ballymena-born Hollywood star Liam Neeson.

The fall-out from his comments about seeking revenge against any black man for an alleged rape decades ago rumbles on.

The News Letter finds support for Neeson in his home town.

One shopper tells the paper that the actor was expressing his anger at the time and had said he regrets it.

"If you open your mouth in public at all these days , especially if you're famous, you're beat," he adds.

Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption Liam Neeson has been backed by shoppers in his home town of Ballymena

The Belfast Telegraph's Lindy McDowell says Neeson's problem "may be that he is too intelligent for the sages of social media".

She says his response to the alleged rape was "racist, indefensible, shocking and despicable" but the Neeson of today is far from an unthinking racist.

"The very fact that he was so searingly honest in his recall, in his confessional shame, speaks of the man that he is," she says.

The Irish News focuses on a different angle, as it says that Neeson's comments during the same interview that he knew "a couple" of the IRA hunger strikers who died in 1981 is causing confusion.

The paper contacted several "local political representatives" over the comments, but none could shed any light on which hunger strikers Neeson would have known.

Fake tablets warning

Finally, the Daily Mirror carries a warning over the dangers of fake Xanax tablets.

It says a brave Belfast man described how his heart actually stopped and he was on a life-support machine after taking "a load" of fake tablets.

Northern Ireland coroner Joe McCriskin says Northern Ireland is suffering "an escalating crisis" in relation to fake versions of the drug, with nearly one death related to their misuse each week.

"The deaths are a very tiny tip of what is a very huge iceberg," he says.