Northern Ireland

What the papers say


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

There's a desolate feel to the Belfast Telegraph's front page. "Shutters down", says its main headline above pictures of shops that have closed because of the economic downturn.

The paper says that after the shutters fell on 1,000 businesses in the last financial year, retailers have called on the executive at Stormont to take action to save our high streets. On two inside pages it has the stories behind the closure of 20 businesses, and all the owners have a sorry tale to tell.

The Irish News reports under its main headline that two former psychiatric hospitals at the centre of a child abuse scandal were left off a list of institutions to be investigated by a major government inquiry. The paper says this was despite the fact three independent reports had highlighted serious allegations "going back decades".

The News Letter reports on a cross-border reconciliation event that ended in discord after some of those taking part accused the Sinn Fein MLA and junior minister Martina Anderson of "glorifying the IRA's role in the Troubles".

No surprise that the front pages in Dublin are dominated by the latest budget. According to the Irish Times, the finance minister, Michael Noonan, acted to boost jobs and lift the property market.

But in an editorial, it takes him to task for one of the other measures he announced. "The increase in VAT to 23% on so-called luxury items - and many are nothing of the sort - is regressive and unfair", it says.

The Irish Independent says Mr Noonan took a "mortgage gamble" by offering first-time buyers 5,000 euros in tax relief from next year as he attempted to "kick-start the market".

It describes the VAT increase as "a dangerous move" at a time when consumer confidence is "already on the floor". But it concludes that in the circumstances, Mr Noonan's speech was a masterpiece. In easier times, it says, it might have been called a triumph.

David Cameron is under the spotlight in London as he heads for the latest European summit. The Daily Telegraph says that by threatening to veto a rescue package for the euro unless it contains guarantees to safeguard the City of London, he raised the stakes over the signing of a new EU treaty.

The Daily Express scents what it calls "a secret EU plot" to gang up on Britain. The Daily Mail fears that, once again, the leaders of France and Germany are trying to bounce a British Prime Minister into a course of action that may prove damaging to the UK's national interest. It urges him not to be bullied.

Mr Cameron sets out his stall in an article in the Times, but the Sun and the Daily Star demand that the public should be offered a say in whatever is agreed.

After Tuesday's threat that Europe could have its credit score downgraded, Matt's cartoon in the Daily Telegraph shows a couple walking down the street.

The man is saying: "These credit rating people are a nuisance". Right on his heels is a man in a suit carrying a sign that says: He's broke."

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