Northern Ireland

NI papers: 'Shelve Stormont' call and royal pulling power

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

A call by Alliance to "shelve" Stormont if the next talk fail, and a future queen's pint-pulling skills are among the stories on Thursday' front pages.

Alliance leader Naomi Long tells the Irish News the assembly must be shelved indefinitely if the impasse is not resolved at the next round of talks.

She spoke to the paper ahead of her party's annual conference this weekend.

She said MLAs cannot continue to be paid to sit in an assembly that does not exist.

'Self-harm'

"If parties are genuinely saying they cannot reconcile their differences, that they cannot get the assembly back up and running, then none of us have a job here any longer and we've got to acknowledge that and we've got to move on," Mrs Long said.

The Alliance leader also claimed the DUP's Brexit strategy was a "massive act of self-harm" which had placed the Irish border question "firmly back, front and centre of our political dynamics".

Image caption Naomi Long said MLAs should no longer have jobs if they cannot restore Stormont

The outcome of a "horrific" inquest into the deaths of two soldiers at Ballykilner Army base makes the front page of the Belfast Telegraph

Rifleman Darren Mitchell and Lance Corporal James Ross were found dead at the County Down base within three months of each other six years ago.

The coroner ruled that Rifleman Mitchell took his own life but found that the death of Lance Corporal Ross was an accident, and there was not enough evidence that he had deliberately killed himself.

The men's families said the were "horrified" by what they heard during the inquest, which included eight other incidents of serious self-harm among Ballykilner troops.

They have called on the Army to do more to support soldiers with mental distress.

The Daily Mirror leads with the conviction of a former Enniskillen schoolboy who took "upskirt" photos of two of his teachers when he was aged 14 and 15.

Image caption The boy took five 'upskirt' photos at Enniskillen Royal Grammar School in 2015/16

Timothy Bloomer, who is now 18, was found guilty of outraging public decency after a lengthy investigation.

"I'll regret it forever," is the headline, taken from a statement from Bloomer in which he admitted his actions were a "wrong, horrible thing to do".

'Farmers sacrificed'

The News Letter continues its coverage of farmers' anger over a plan to slash RHI subsidies "by a massive 96%".

The Ulster Farmers Union (UFU) tells the paper it is "outraged" by the proposal which will "devastate farmers who are already struggling".

A lack of cost controls led to a huge overspend in the flawed green energy scheme and contributed to the collapse of devolution.

The UFU claims farm businesses are being "sacrificed in a bid to cover up the failures of civil servants".

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The Harp and the Crown came together in Belfast as the future monarchs pulled pints

The News Letter and others feature images of a smiling future queen serving beer behind a Belfast bar.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are on a two-day visit to Belfast and their schedule included a party for "inspirational young people" in the Empire Music Hall.

"Kate shows her pulling power" says the News Letter, clearly impressed with her bar skills, while the Mirror declared it the "Roy-ale visit".

The Belfast Telegraph points out the Empire is "most used to hosting the blues that blue-bloods" but says fans waited for hours outside the venue to catch a glimpse of the VIPs.

The paper has a four-page spread on the Royal couple's latest tour of Belfast, saying their action-packed visit has made a "big impression" on young people.

Cross-border woe

The Telegraph also reports that two Northern Ireland-registered fishing boats have been impounded by an Irish naval vessel "for fishing in the Republic's territorial waters".

The Kilkeel-based crews were detained in Dundalk bay and escorted to Clogherhead, where they were handed over to Gardaí (Irish police).

County Down unionist councillor Henry Reilly has accused the Irish fishing authorities of "double standards", telling the paper that the UK "allows Irish-registered vessels to take thousands of tonnes of fish from our waters".

There is more cross-border woe for Kilkeel residents in the Belfast Telegraph, as the town's hockey club has been banned from all Hockey Ireland cup competitions next season.

The paper says the ban was imposed after the club's decision to "stick to its principles over never playing on a Sunday".

'No warning'

The sudden death of a 41-year-old woman from alcohol poisoning and liver disease has prompted her grieving family to help other alcoholics, reports the Irish News.

Tracey Guy, a mother of two from Omagh, County Tyrone died at home last week, but her sister Glenda Donald tells the paper her death came "without warning".

"Other people would go into hospital a few times. She had no issues at all," she explains.

The family are planning to run the Belfast marathon in May to raise funds for addiction services.