Northern Ireland

What the papers say

Newspapers

Journalist Mike Philpott takes a look at Wednesday's newspapers.

Hazel Stewart, who has denied charges of murdering her husband and the wife of her former lover, is pictured on many of the news pages. Her trial, at Coleraine Crown Court, is the lead story in the Belfast Telegraph, the News Letter, the Mirror and the Sun and is reported on the inside pages of several other papers.

The Telegraph says the court heard that she went along with the plot because she was scared of Colin Howell, the former dentist who has already been sentenced to 21 years after pleading guilty to murder.

The Irish News leads with a very different story - the economic assessment which claims that Northern Ireland's budget figures don't add up.

The paper says a special report drawn up for the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action by Pricewaterhouse Coopers describes the package as "a patch and mend approach". It questions plans to raise £800m and says "much more imagination could have been used".

The Irish Times reports that experts from the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank are due in Dublin this week to assess whether the government is meeting its commitments under the financial bailout scheme.

But the Irish Independent leads with what it calls the "bombshell" news that Ireland may have to ask for another 15bn euro. According to the chairman of the Anglo Irish Bank, Alan Dukes, the extra money is needed "to clean up the banks properly". The paper says his comments were rejected by the government - sparking a row that overshadowed the first televised debate of the election campaign.

The Irish Times has a picture of the Labour leader, Eamon Gilmore, and Fianna Fail's leader, Micheal Martin, as they met for the on-screen debate. The paper says Fine Gael's Enda Kenny refused to take part and continued instead with a campaign tour of the country.

The banks also make headlines in London. This time, the story is what the Financial Times calls the chancellor's "dawn raid" to raise another £800m from a levy on the banks. But nobody is impressed.

The Sun describes it as a bit of "window dressing" before the banks "start throwing bonuses around like confetti". The Mail sees it as a let-off, pointing out that the figure is less than a week's profit for the top five banks. For the Independent, it's the government's "white flag of surrender". The Guardian says all George Osborne managed to do was to bring forward a tax rise he had already announced last summer.

More embarrassing for the government is a piece of research on the front pages of the Guardian and the Independent, showing that more than half of the Conservative Party's income is derived from the City of London. The Mail wonders if - at a time when families are suffering from tax increases and spending reductions - it can be right that the ruling party depends for most of its donations on the clique that suffered least.

Finally, it's a dog's life for the police in Ballymena. The Irish News reports that a man turned up at the PSNI station to report the criminal behaviour of a stray dog who had impregnated his pedigree pooch. Officers had to tell him that he was barking up the wrong tree and should talk instead to the dog warden. The paper says people in the area should be on the lookout for a mongrel with a spring in his step.

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