Northern Ireland

What the papers say


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

There are echoes of the past on several front pages.

The same black and white photograph of the Miami Showband appears in the Mirror and the Belfast Telegraph.

"Executed by the Jackal" says the Mirror's headline - a reference to the involvement of a police agent in the 1975 massacre of members of the band.

The Telegraph describes it as "the day the music died".

The group's bass player, Stephen Travers, who survived the loyalist gun attack, recalls the horror of his friends being killed. His chilling account said: "I heard the gunshots and I heard them crying. I heard one of them say "please don't."

The News Letter leads with the latest evidence to the Smithwick Tribunal, in which a former security agent code named Kevin Fulton claimed that an officer from Dundalk Garda station helped the IRA to murder two senior RUC officers in 1989.

For the Irish News, the big story is the fact that James Donaghy, who was convicted on Wednesday of sex offences against a trainee cleric and two altar boys, is still a priest.

European matters are still high on the agenda in Dublin.

The Irish Times reports that the government in Dublin has been accused of scaremongering after the finance minister, Michael Noonan, warned that a referendum on tougher controls for euro zone countries would turn into a vote on whether Ireland should remain in the single currency.

He qualified his comments by saying that it was too early to say whether a referendum would be needed.

The Irish Independent says the authorities will track down home owners who try to avoid a new household charge by using information from the tax authorities and the Electricity Supply Board.

The paper comments that such a levy is unavoidable. Every other developed country has a property tax, it says, but people in Ireland seem to regard it as unacceptable.

'Questionable deals'

Taxes are also a big issue in the Times in London.

It reports that up to 10 major companies are facing a judge-led investigation into their tax settlements amid growing concern over how Revenue and Customs polices big firms.

It says MPs will criticise the tax authorities in a report next week for signing what the paper calls "questionable deals" with Vodafone and Goldman Sachs.

The story says the deals may have deprived the exchequer of more than £2bn.

One of the most widely covered stories is illustrated with a picture of President Obama shaking hands with paratroopers at Fort Bragg in North Carolina as he declared an end to America's involvement in Iraq.

The Guardian says that after eight years, trillions of dollars and countless deaths, the war is over at last.

Finally, Europe has been in the headlines for more serious reasons, but on Wednesday it returned to more familiar territory.

The European Commission has made one of its famous rulings - this time declaring that prunes are not a laxative.

The Daily Telegraph reports that this has infuriated a Liberal Democrat Euro MP, Sir Graham Watson - so much so that he has challenged the commissioner responsible to a prune eating contest.

In an editorial, the paper looks forward to hearing the results.

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