Northern Ireland

NI newspaper review: Hotel owner questioned and patient waiting lists

Front page of the Daily Mirror Image copyright Daily Mirror
Image caption Front page of the Daily Mirror on Thursday
Front page of the News Letter Image copyright News Letter
Image caption Front page of the News Letter on Thursday

The owner of the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown, Michael McElhatton, is on the front page of the Irish News after police were granted a 36-hour extension to question him.

Lauren Bullock, 17, Morgan Barnard, 17, and Connor Currie, 16, died in a crush outside the hotel on St Patrick's Day.

The PSNI said a 52-year-old man is being interviewed in Dungannon police station.

Separately, the newspaper reports that tributes have been paid to a County Down man who drowned in the Ukraine.

David Robinson, 42, was originally from Newcastle, but had been living in the Dunmurry area.

His body was recovered from the Dnieper River in Zaporizhia by the coastguard on 5 June.

Mr Robinson's niece, Cara, said the family was heartbroken at the death of her uncle who she described as "charismatic" and "loving".

Image copyright PA
Image caption Michael McElhatton was interviewed by police

The Belfast Telegraph reports on its front page that the legal cost of reassessing applications for Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) in Northern Ireland has risen to almost £5m, "with thousands of appeal cases yet to be heard by a tribunal".

It says the Department for Communities (DfC) has confirmed that the cost of three tribunal panels has reached £4,907,294 since PIPs were introduced in 2016.

The disclosure was made in response to a Freedom of Information request by DUP MLA Carla Lockhart.

Medical waiting times make the front pages of the Daily Mirror and News Letter.

The Daily Mirror leads with research from the Ulster University which indicates that about 120,000 people waited more than a year to access health services in Northern Ireland.

It says statistics obtained by the university "show one in 16 people stayed on consultants' outpatient waiting lists for more than a year".

It adds that this compares to one in 750 in Wales and one in 48,000 in England.

The Department of Health said waiting times had been escalating since 2014, "as pressures on the health budget meant limited funding was available to suppress waiting time growth".

The News Letter, and a number of other papers report that there has been a huge rise in the number of children and adults having to wait longer than the nine-week target time to access mental health services in Northern Ireland.

According to a Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) report, the number of people waiting longer than nine weeks to access adult mental health services rose from 648 to 1,529 between March 2018 and March 2019.

The number of young people waiting longer than nine weeks to access child and adolescent mental health services during the same period increased from 66 to 487.

The News Letter says the HSCB was not in a position to provide a comment at the time of publication.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Health service waiting times are featured in a number of the newspapers

The Belfast Telegraph reports that the PSNI has asked a police chief from Great Britain to investigate a killing from 47 years ago.

Jean Smyth-Campbell, 24, was shot dead in west Belfast in 1972.

Her death was initially blamed by police on the IRA, but an undercover Army unit has since been linked to the shooting.

The investigation will be handled by Jon Boutcher, the soon-to-retire chief constable of Bedfordshire.

Elsewhere, the News Letter says a world rally championship race could be staged in Northern Ireland.

Tourism Northern Ireland chief executive John McGrillen told the NI Affairs Committee at Westminster that talks were under way with the FIA World Rally Championship organisers about hosting an event in 2020.