Northern Ireland

What the papers say

Newspapers

Journalist Mike Philpott takes a look at what is making the headlines in Thursday's newspapers.

Events in Japan are overshadowed in the local papers by the 18-year sentence imposed on double murderer Hazel Stewart.

The front pages of the Belfast Telegraph, the News Letter, the Irish News and the Daily Mirror all feature a picture of her inside a prison van at Laganside Courthouse on the day she was told she would be at least 66 years old by the time she was released.

The Belfast Telegraph has a picture of one of the cells in the prison where she will serve her sentence. It points out that she will be entitled to only one visit a week and will miss her son's wedding.

The News Letter says people who know her believe she will find prison life "very difficult".

But the leader writers have little sympathy. The Daily Mirror, pointing out that she is still protesting her innocence, urges her to "tell the truth".

The Irish News notes the judge's words that she had displayed little remorse. The paper comments on deceit, poor judgement and a series of decisions which had disastrous consequences. When faced with a choice between the right path and the wrong one, it says, she invariably chose the latter.

The big fear, of course, is the prospect of meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. There is much talk of another Chernobyl, an issue that makes the lead in the Daily Telegraph and the Irish Independent.

There are also many stories about the people who have become known as the "Fukushima 50" - the workers who are struggling to contain the crisis. But the former head of the agency which led the Chernobyl clean-up tells the Guardian that Japan has underestimated the problem. Instead of deploying a tiny staff at the plant, he says, the authorities should be willing to sacrifice workers for the good of the greater public.

The stories and pictures documenting the horror of the earthquake continue. A picture in the Guardian shows elderly people sleeping on the floor or in wheelchairs in a sports hall after being evacuated from their care home. The most harrowing shot is of a woman holding her mother's mud-caked hand after finding her dead in the rubble.

The Guardian accuses Washington of dithering and vacillation. The Daily Telegraph says Mr Obama has shown himself to be a master of inaction. But perhaps the harshest verdict on the US President comes from the Times. It comments that from Benghazi to Bahrain, the President has proven to be a brutal disappointment.

The paper recalls that on being told President Coolidge was dead, Dorothy Parker asked: "How do they know?" The same, it says, might be said of America's current foreign policy. Where freedom is at stake, it concludes, the leader of the free world is nowhere to be seen.

There are lots of pictures of celebrations in Dublin and elsewhere, as well as information about the St Patrick's Day parades taking place on Thursday. The Irish Times has thrown open one of its pages to allow people to write personal letters to the patron saint. The economic crisis runs like a thread through most of them. One woman sums it up in just one line. Her letter said: "Dear St Patrick. I bet you wish you'd stayed in Wales now."

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