Northern Ireland

Newspaper review: NI and Republic of Ireland stories

Newspapers

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

Three very different stories make the headlines locally.

The Belfast Telegraph says "layers of bureaucracy are set for the axe" when First Minister Peter Robinson outlines his draft programme for government later.

According to the story, plans to cut the number of councils from 26 to 11 "are ready to go" and the five education boards will be replaced by a single organisation. The paper says quangos will also "take a big hit".

The Irish News has a front-page picture of a sign outside an off-licence in Draperstown, announcing that due to theft, foreign nationals must produce identification.

The paper says the sign has been condemned as racist, and the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities has compared it to the "no blacks, no dogs, no Irish" signs that were once posted outside boarding houses in Britain.

'Sore'

The News Letter leads on an interview with the Ulster Unionist leader, Tom Elliott, who says he feels "sore" that he and Danny Kennedy are "on trial", as he puts it, by other members of the Orange Order for attending the funeral of Constable Ronan Kerr.

The use of taxpayers' money is under the spotlight in several stories in London.

The big story in the Daily Mail is the scrapping of a health service computer system that has already cost £12bn. The paper talks of a scandalous waste of taxpayers' money on a system that never worked. It calls it a monument to Whitehall folly during Labour's 13 years in power.

The previous Labour government is also under fire in the Daily Telegraph, after the claim that the Private Finance Initiative, which allows private companies to build hospitals or schools and then lease them back to the government - with interest - has taken some hospitals to the brink of collapse.

The Times leads with a claim by the Royal College of Nursing that newly qualified nurses are arriving on the wards incapable of caring for patients because they have spent too much time in the classroom and not enough time doing practical work.

But the Daily Mirror takes a swipe at the coalition government - and in particular the Liberal Democrats - over squeezed incomes, lack of growth and high inflation.

The presidential race is still very much in the headlines in Dublin.

The focus has shifted from Martin McGuinness to another presidential hopeful, Senator David Norris, who is trying to re-enter the contest. The Irish Independent reports that he is close to getting the number of nominations he needs.

The Irish Times says he is "inching back" into the race and may soon be joined by Rosemary Scallon, better known as Dana, who is seeking the support of county councils.

There is lots of coverage of the demise of the rock band REM.

'What was that?'

The Belfast Telegraph quotes the lead singer, Michael Stipe, as saying that the skill in attending a party is knowing when to leave. And clearly, after 31 years, that time had come.

The Guardian says it could be argued that the split was coming since 1997, when drummer Bill Berry decided that life in a stadium-filling rock band was not quite as exciting as his hay farm. But it adds that we have lost one of the most important and influential bands of the last three decades.

The Daily Telegraph online edition notes that REM had the dubious honour of writing the most misheard lyric in the history of rock music.

Apparently, nearly half of listeners confuse the words of the Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite, believing that when Michael Stipe sings: "Call me when you try to wake her," he is actually singing "Calling Jamaica".

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