Northern Ireland

NI weekly papers: Victims speak out about sexual abuse

Strabane Chronicle Image copyright Strabane Chronicle
Banbridge Chronicle Image copyright Banbridge Chronicle
Coleraine Chronicle Image copyright Coleraine Chronicle
Portadown Times Image copyright Portadown Times
Antrim Guardian Image copyright Antrim Guardian

A harrowing personal account from a victim of alleged child sex abuse in County Fermanagh is the standout story in this week's local papers.

The Impartial Reporter speaks to a 24-year-old woman who claims she was gang raped as a child while in the care of a woman who worked as a childminder.

"My childminder sold me for sex" is the headline, as she describes in graphic detail years of alleged abuse at the hands of up to 15 men.

The woman contacted the Impartial Reporter in response to its ongoing coverage of historical child sex abuse claims in the county.

Image caption The Impartial Reporter has been investigating claims of a suspected paedophile ring in Fermanagh

The series began two months ago, and the Police Service of Northern Ireland has set up a "special team of detectives" to investigate the reports.

So far, officers have spoken to 11 people who have made allegations, but that number is expected to rise.

The Reporter also has an exclusive interview with one of the Enniskillen teachers who took a pupil to court for "upskirting".

The woman is speaking out after 18-year-old Timothy Boomer was sentenced for taking photographs and videos up the skirts of two staff at what was then known as Portora Royal School.

She tells the paper how difficult it was to get the authorities to take the issue seriously, adding she has been left traumatised by the "overwhelming" violation.

'Bizarre incident'

An image of a priest being chased down a street in County Tyrone makes the front page of the Strabane Chronicle.

Image caption The chase was filmed and posted on social media

The paper says the clergyman was "forced to flee from an intoxicated man" after a "bizarre" incident in Newtownstewart last week.

Footage of Fr Roland Colhoun being chased was posted on social media.

The video also shows the suspect later being handcuffed by police, with at least six officers attending the scene.

Musical chairs

Inside, the Strabane Chronicle reports on a significant promotion for a former Sinn Féin mayor who failed to get re-elected in this month's council elections.

Maolíosa McHugh lost his seat on Derry and Strabane Council two weeks ago, but just days later he was named as the party's new MLA for West Tyrone.

It is a case of musical chairs for Sinn Féin - Mr McHugh was co-opted to the assembly seat to replace its outgoing MLA Michaela Boyle.

Ms Boyle was successful in her bid to be elected to Fermanagh and Omagh Council, but a ban on double jobbing means she has to give up her assembly seat.

She tells the paper: "I felt the time was right for me to go back to local politics at council when the opportunity arose."

'Witch hunt'

There is controversy on the front page of the Banbridge Chronicle after banners were erected in the town protesting against military prosecutions.

Image copyright Banbridge Chronicle
Image caption The banners were erected in Banbridge and other areas across Northern Ireland

It follows a decision to prosecute a former Parachute Regiment soldier for the murder of two men on Bloody Sunday in 1972.

The banners claimed Banbridge "opposes the witch-hunt against British veterans".

Similar banners have also appeared in other towns and cities across Northern Ireland.

Sinn Féin's John O'Dowd called for their immediate removal, saying they were "not appropriate" during a murder prosecution.

The paper says the Banbridge banners were taken down within 24 hours, but Parachute Regiment flags were later erected in the town as well as in Rathfriland, Seapatrick and Moneyslane.

Wizard-spotting

Inside the Chronicle, the world's most famous wizard makes a flying visit to Banbridge.

Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliff called into the Belmont House Hotel for lunch last week, leaving staff and guests "spellbound".

Image copyright Belmont House Hotel
Image caption Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliff posed for photos with hotel staff in Banbridge

The Hollywood star is a regular visitor to area because his father, Alan Radcliff, grew up in Banbridge.

The one-time wizard worked his charms on hotel staff, with one manager telling the paper: "He was very down to earth and personally introduced himself to every member of our team."

'Priceless'

A suspected case of grave robbing makes the front page of the Coleraine Chronicle.

A custom-made marble plaque, carved in tribute to the late motorcycle racer Jim Scott, has gone missing from his grave in Ballyrashane.

Mr Scott, who died almost two years ago, was a former Ulster and Irish champion racer.

His heartbroken widow tells the paper the plaque is "irreplaceable and priceless to me".

Image copyright Family photo
Image caption The late racer's family has appealed for the return of the customised grave plaque

The Coleraine Chronicle also reports that council staff are to conduct an investigation into public rights of way at Dunluce Castle.

The investigation was prompted by concerns over a lack of access to a cave beneath the ruins of the cliff-top castle.

The entrance to the Fairy Cave has been fenced off for almost 18 months due to safety concerns.

Repair work is taking "longer than anticipated" and the delay led councillor Norman Hillis to request a review of public access to the entire medieval site.

Image copyright Coleraine Chronicle
Image caption The path to the Fairy Cave beneath the castle has been closed off

Public access is also a problem in this week's Portadown Times which says residents felt "trapped in their homes" during broadband installation work.

It reports that one resident, who has cancer, could not exit her Craigavon home because of the state of the path and had to be lifted over a garden fence,

Virgin Media apologised "for any inconvenience" after a huge volume of complaints.

Free to go

The Times leads with security concerns about Craigavon Area Hospital's Bluestone unit, which treats patients with mental health conditions.

A Craigavon resident complained that police frequently conduct helicopter searches near her home for patients who have "escaped" from the unit.

But a Southern Health Trust statement said most of Bluestone's patients attend "on a voluntary basis and therefore don't need to 'escape' when exiting the hospital".

The trust added it has "strict protocols in place for when a restricted patient absconds".

'No means no'

A woman who was sexually assaulted by her own partner has spoken out in the Antrim Guardian in a bid to help more victims get justice.

She was in bed asleep when the attack began in October 2016.

"Some men think that because a woman is their partner or their wife they can do what they like, but they can't," she tells the paper.

"No one should be able to force themselves on you, no matter what the relationship".

The woman said that although the court case was difficult, the judge was "fair" and she encouraged other abuse victims to contact police.

'Real character'

Finally, the Guardian also reports the sad demise of an "Antrim legend" - Leo the Tesco cat.

Image copyright Antrim Guardian
Image caption Leo the so-called "Tesco cat" was a supermarket stalwart in Antrim town

The friendly feline was a regular sight at the town's Tesco store, where he was much beloved by shoppers.

Leo even had his own Facebook page, which comically described him as a "customer service assistant".

Alas, the intrepid tabby's travels came to an abrupt end earlier this month when he was hit by a car at the supermarket's entrance.

The paper says Antrim has lost "a real character" and prints tributes from his many fans.

RIP Leo.