Northern Ireland

NI paper review: Flu fears, Lady Hermon and Majorca rape sentence

Hands in medical gloves fill a syringe from a small vial. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The usual nasal spray was due this month, but due to a UK-wide shortage has been delayed

A former Bangor Grammar pupil's rape trial on the holiday island of Majorca, flu vaccination delays and Lady Hermon's decision to stand down feature in Thursday's papers.

Lady Hermon's decision to step down as Northern Ireland's only independent MP is covered in all the NI papers.

The Daily Mirror leads with: "Down and out". It says the DUP is "ready to swoop" on her seat.

The Belfast Telegraph, Irish News and the News Letter also mark Lady Hermon stepping down.

The Irish News says her withdrawal makes it less likely that a pro-Remain candidate will take the seat, with the DUP the favourites.

In 2017, Alex Easton came within 1,208 votes of taking the seat.

Image copyright Daily Mirror

Irish language sign attacks are the main story in the Irish News, with the headline: "CCTV erected following Irish language sign attacks".

The paper says there have been almost 100 attacks on Irish language signs in the Mid Ulster council area in two years.

The council said that from June 2017 to mid-October this year, there were 93 "incidents of vandalism" involving dual language signs.

One sign at Gulladuff Hill in Londonderry is now covered by a CCTV camera, having been targeted 12 times in recent months.

Sinn Féin councillor John McNamee says the damage is costing ratepayers tens of thousands of pounds.

UUP councillor Trevor Wilson argues that location might be an issue, saying: "To put dual language signs in Protestant areas where signs were never erected before, even in English, is antagonising at the least".

Flu deaths fear?

The Belfast Telegraph's main story is: "Killer flu fears as vaccines delayed." It says that a potentially deadly flu epidemic could hit Northern Ireland this winter.

Schoolchildren face delays to receiving their vaccinations against the virus, reports the paper.

The usual nasal spray vaccination was due this month however a UK-wide shortage has delayed until mid December.

Dr Michael McKenna, a GP based in west Belfast, says there are concerns it could be similar to a flu season in Australia, that caused more than 600 deaths.

Image copyright News Letter

The News Letter's main story reacts to a paramilitary monitoring panel report.

The papers says the PSNI has distanced itself from a recent Independent Review Commission (IRC) report that detailed criminality by the UVF and UDA, but failed to mention the IRA or the INLA.

In a statement to the paper, the PSNI confirmed: "With regards to the PIRA, there has been no change since the Paramilitary Assessment in 2015."

That assessment said a Provisional IRA army council remained in existence, though in a much reduced form and its leadership remains committed to the peace process.

It said members of the IRA still believed an army council "oversees both PIRA and Sinn Féin with an overarching strategy - we judge this strategy has a wholly political focus".

The Independent Reporting Commission was created as part of the 2015 Fresh Start Agreement.

Its job is to report back on any progress made on ending paramilitary activity.

The Irish Times reports that a former Bangor Grammar pupil has been sentenced to nine years in jail for raping his partner in a jealousy-fuelled attack at their Majorca home.

Dylan Rogers, 28, forced his victim to have sex over two days, after accusing her of looking at another man on the beach, reports the paper.

As well as raping her, he hit her, smashed her head against the wall and grabbed hold of her neck, prosecutors are reported to have said.

The former Ulster schoolboy rugby player was arrested after his victim managed to escape their eighth-floor apartment in S'Arenal, a holiday resort near the island's airport, and alert a neighbour, adds the paper.