Northern Ireland

Paper review: A health crisis and a second chance at life

Members of the Royal College of Nursing outside the Royal Victoria Hospital on Tuesday
Image caption Members of the Royal College of Nursing union outside the Royal Victoria Hospital on Tuesday

The ongoing health crisis dominates two of the front pages.

"How many lives have to be lost before we act?" - the headline in the Belfast Telegraph poses a question from one of Northern Ireland's most senior nurses.

Head of the Royal College of Nursing in Northern Ireland, Pat Cullen, says the NHS has previously been "handed financial packages to save lives".

She says the situation is critical enough to warrant a cash injection to bring an end to the industrial action.

"Treating the symptoms and not the problem has not worked," she says.

The Department of Health says the "reduction in extra monies" is the fundamental reason for the growth in waiting times over the last five years.

The News Letter focuses on Secretary of State Julian Smith, who is coming under pressure to get involved, the paper warns.

Despite his insistence that health remains a devolved issue, senior health bosses have said the time is nigh for him to intervene.

However, in response to questions from the paper about direct rule being an option to solve the crisis, the Northern Ireland Office rejected suggestions direct rule could be introduced.

Image copyright BBC Sport

In the Daily Mirror, an investigation into alleged fraud at the Irish Football Association makes the front page.

The police have charged a 39-year-old man and 36-year-old woman with a number of offences.

Both are due to appear before Belfast Magistrates' Court on 20 December.

Image copyright Daily mirror

In the Irish News the smiling face of Stephen "Winker" Watson beams out on the third page.

The BBC NI sports presenter has undergone a successful kidney transplant and is recovering in hospital.

The 47-year-old says he has been given a "second chance at life" and thanks his anonymous "selfless donor".

It is his second transplant after he received one from his father Cecil almost 30 years ago.

In the News Letter we hear about a five-year-old who flies through the air with the greatest of ease.

Kaspar Segner, who goes to Greenwood Primary School in Belfast, is a trapeze artist and has been performing with his mother Tina since he was in nappies.

The paper shows a picture of Kaspar being held as a baby while his mother is doing the flying trapeze.

It's now "second nature to him," she says and he will be taking part in a performance at a winter show in Writer's Square.

Love across the pond

In the Belfast Telegraph there is bad news for one transatlantic couple.

The paper reports that a registered blind pensioner will spend Christmas without his American wife after the Home Office turned down her visa application.

Peter O'Kane met wife Lenora six years ago at a cowboy group in Canada and married four years ago.

Mr O'Kane suffers from retinitis pigmentosa and uses a guide dog, Emily.

The couple's wish to spend Christmas together now hangs in the balance.

"She was told she would get the visa on Sunday, but we got a phone call from my solicitor telling me it had been refused on the grounds that I'm not earning enough money," he said.

However, the Home Office has said it is willing to reconsider the application.

A spokesperson said the decision had been taken because "the evidential requirements of the rules were not met".

Mrs O'Kane will be given the opportunity to submit the required information and the application will be reconsidered in full.

Image copyright Getty Images

The Irish News reports that millions of extra pounds are being spent keeping open "isolated pairs" of small schools.

The information comes from a new Ulster University study.

Academics identified 32 such pairs in Northern Ireland, many of which receive additional funding to stay afloat.

The study shows that rural areas with two primary schools, each serving their own community, was not an uncommon occurrence.

It found 32 examples of pairs offering primary aged education to two different communities and that six of these pairs was "unsustainable" - in that both schools had less than 105 pupils.