Northern Ireland

What the papers say


Journalist Fionola Meredith takes a look at what is making the headlines in Wednesday's newspapers.

The Irish News reports on plans to save the NHS here.

The paper has got hold of a new draft report, from the Health and Social Care Board, on the future of the NHS in Northern Ireland.

It looks like quite a radical shake-up. The document allegedly includes plans to slash the number of acute hospitals by up to half, cut 2,000 jobs and completely overhaul care for the elderly.

It also apparently proposes reducing the number of local hospitals and reviewing stand-alone midwifery units in Downpatrick and Lisburn.

In its editorial, the paper says that few would disagree that the health service requires radical change.

But it says that we need a mature debate on the nature of those changes, and it calls for openness and transparency on the part of those who make decisions which affect us all.

'Out of control'

There are new claims about the crisis-hit exams body CCEA in the Belfast Telegraph.

"F is for fail" - that's the headline, and the paper's verdict on what it calls "the exams quango that spun out of control".

The paper claims that senior bosses at CCEA awarded themselves pay rises without approval from education bosses. It adds that the alleged breach of governance was not discovered by the department of education for six months.

As the paper notes, the exams body has already been severely criticised for the lavish spending of public money.

In an editorial, it says that the story comes under the category of "you couldn't make it up". The paper says that in general it seems there is a culture of spending public funds as if the pot was bottomless, and the level of scrutiny and oversight is severely lacking.

Elsewhere, the News Letter has ongoing coverage of the Smithwick tribunal in Dublin, examining claims of collusion between members of the Garda and the IRA that led to the murders of two senior RUC officers.

The Mirror and the Sun carry disturbing details from the pre-trial hearing into the murder of Michaela McAreavey in Mauritius.

Vulnerable suffer

There are concerns about the elderly in the London Times and Daily Telegraph.

The elderly will be condemned to spend their final years in a worsening care system that risks bankrupting them and their families unless politicians grasp a once in a lifetime chance to change it.

That warning comes from economist, Andrew Dilnot, who's carrying out a review for the government. Mr Dilnot describes the current arrangements as a mess, that leaves people frightened and facing potentially ruinous bills.

He says his ideas, which will be published on Monday, must not be kicked into the long grass - or the most vulnerable people will suffer.

The Independent report on an unusual etiquette lesson.

A bride-to-be has received a very public - and presumably unasked for - crash course in manners and etiquette from her future mother-in-law.

Heidi Withers was sent the email by her fiance's stepmother, Carolyn Bourne, attacking her "uncouthness" and "lack of manners".

Mrs Bourne, who is a prize-winning flower breeder, also had a go at Heidi for being fussy about food, sleeping in late and insulting her family.

And she didn't like the fact that Heidi wanted to get married in a castle - brash, celebrity-style behaviour, according to Mrs Bourne.

Roll on the wedding!

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