Northern Ireland

Newspaper review: NI and Republic of Ireland stories

Newspapers

Journalist Mike Philpott takes a look at the morning papers.

An unusual spat between a politician and the judiciary features on a couple of front pages.

As the News Letter reports, former Secretary of State Peter Hain has been accused by the lord chief justice of undermining the independence of the judiciary after comments he made in his memoirs.

The paper says it is a highly unusual step for Sir Declan Morgan to issue a public statement on the issue.

The Irish News calls it an extraordinary row, and says Sir Declan has raised his concerns with Lord Chancellor Ken Clarke and the local justice minister, David Ford.

The criticism relates to a passage in Mr Hain's book in which he described a senior judge as being "off his rocker" and criticised his handling of a case involving the appointment of the interim Victims' Commissioner.

The Belfast Telegraph's main story also relates to the courts.

It reports on the appearance in the dock of a teenager who, Belfast Magistrates' Court was told, was electronically tagged and on licence from jail when he allegedly hijacked a car.

'Debt forgiveness'

There is good news in Dublin for people in difficulty with their mortgages.

The Irish Times reports that up to 30,000 people could benefit from new legislation being proposed by the government which would increase the pressure on banks to offer "debt forgiveness" to those with unsustainable mortgages.

According to the paper, the law would allow debts to be frozen for a year, after which they would be written off if the individual's financial circumstances had not changed.

The Irish Independent reports that detectives have searched three properties linked to the former government minister Ivor Callely in their investigation into alleged expenses fraud.

The paper says officers are preparing a file for the director of public prosecutions and Mr Callely faces up to 10 years in jail if charged and convicted.

Several papers in London look at the possibility of tax cuts to stimulate the economy.

The Daily Telegraph leads with Nick Clegg's recommendation that the government should speed up plans to raise the income tax allowance to £10,000. The paper says the move would reduce tax bills by £700 a year.

The Guardian sees Mr Clegg's intervention as a public negotiation over the forthcoming budget - the first such negotiation since the coalition was formed.

The Independent says the chancellor, George Osborne, is looking at the idea as he prepares his budget announcement in March. It notes that raising the threshold would take 1,000,000 people out of the tax net altogether.

The paper believes Mr Clegg's idea has been given added impetus by the latest gloomy economic figures, which prompted fears of a double-dip recession.

The story says extra money in people's pockets would enable them to spend more and get the economy moving again.

Finally, an unfortunate speech makes a laughing stock of a French presidential candidate.

The Daily Telegraph reports that Herve Morin, a former defence minister, told an audience in the south of France that he had witnessed the D Day landings.

The problem is that he wasn't born until 17 years later.

An online news site commented: "For a man born in 1961 to take part in the allied landings of 1944 is a great achievement."

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