Northern Ireland

NI newspapers: A 'tearful' PM and a rare show of unity

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

Theresa May has been "forced" to announce the date when she will quit as prime minister after a showdown with her MPs, according to the Daily Mirror.

The exact date of her departure is not yet clear, but the paper's headline predicts that "May Ends in June"'.

It says the PM was "very teary" and "visibly upset" after a 90-minute meeting with MPs from the Conservative's powerful 1922 Committee.

It claims she was given just three more weeks to pass her "doomed" Brexit bill.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption The PM smiled as she was driven away from Westminster, but the papers claim she was in tears at the meeting

The paper has little sympathy for Mrs May but it adds that her imminent departure "opened the dreaded prospect of Boris Johnson becoming PM".

The Mirror also has a strange story about the arrest of man after an incident in which primary school pupils were allegedly stung with nettles.

It happened at Abbots Cross Primary School in Newtownabbey on Wednesday, and parents of pupils reportedly queued up to demand answers from school staff.

In a letter to parents, the school said the matter was being investigated by the relevant authorities and advised them to "document the nettle stings with your GP".

A police statement said a man in his 40s was arrested "for offences including common assault and possession of an offensive weapon".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Were nettles used as a "weapon" to sting primary school pupils?

After almost two and half years of stalemate at Stormont, the News Letter leads with a "rare show of unity" from Northern Ireland's political leaders.

The six biggest parties - the DUP, Sinn Féin, the Ulster Unionists, the SDLP, Alliance and the Greens - have come together to urge the secretary of state to release compensation payments immediately for victims of historical abuse.

In a joint letter to Karen Bradley, they say they all "share the view" that the recommendations of the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry "should be addressed without further delay".

The HIA inquiry report, which was published around the same time that Stormont's government fell apart, recommended compensation payments of between £7,500 and £100,000.

Mrs Bradley has been widely criticised for adding the HIA recommendations to the Stormont talks agenda, with abuse survivors accusing her of using them as a "blackmail tool" in the talks process.

In a statement, she said she wanted to resolve the issue with the "utmost urgency" but needed political parties to answer fundamental questions about how the redress scheme will operate.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Karen Bradley has faced criticism over her handling of HIA compensation payments

'Oldest investigation'

The Irish News reports that a "veteran republican" has been questioned by police about an IRA attack near the Irish border which happened 60 years ago.

Two RUC officers were seriously injured in the attack in Crossmaglen in 1959.

The paper says the cross-border police investigation is "believed to be the oldest of any inquiry into historical republican activity".

The paper points out that the investigation is taking place at the same time that Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt says she wants to protect British troops from historical prosecutions.

'Chaos'

Also on the front page, a former deputy first minister of Northern Ireland warns that a tightly contested poll on Irish unity could lead to violence.

Veteran SDLP politician Seamus Mallon tells the Irish News that a "50 per cent plus one" majority vote in favour of reunification would cause division and instability.

"Look at the chaos caused by the narrow vote for Brexit in the UK", Mr Mallon says.

"Irish unity by numbers won't work. We made that mistake a hundred years ago, when Northern Ireland was set up and on the basis of a head count."

Instead, the former SDLP deputy leader argues for "parallel consent" in which a majority of both communities would have to agree to Irish unity before change took place.

The Belfast Telegraph leads with the story of a man found with gunshot wounds at Milltown Cemetery.

It says the man was a former INLA prisoner who was jailed during the Troubles for his part in a bombing which killed three people in west Belfast.

'Sinister'

The paper also reports condemnation of a dissident republican threat against journalists, which was issued almost a month to the day after Lyra McKee's murder.

Image copyright Jess Lowe/AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Lyra McKee was shot while observing a riot in Derry last month

The threat was made by Saoradh, the political wing of the New IRA, after police officers carried out searches in Derry linked to the fatal shooting of the 29-year-old journalist.

A few hours after the PSNI operation, Saoradh released a statement claiming that a film crew had accompanied police officers during the searches and was "clearly complicit in the attacks on republican families".

The group stated that this "may in future, given the environment, endanger members of the press".

The Telegraph described the threat as "sinister" and the group was strongly criticised by the Nationalist Union of Journalists.

"NUJ members reject any attempt to blame the media for the public backlash arising from the murder of Lyra McKee," said NUJ Irish Secretary Seamus Dooley.

He added that the statement displayed a "shocking degree of arrogance" and said the NUJ "will not be lectured on ethics by Saoradh".