Northern Ireland

What the papers say


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

The front of theBelfast Telegraphis illustrated by a dramatic picture of a piece of the Titanic's hull. There's also a dramatic headline - 'Grave Robbers'.

It refers to the fact that the section of hull is being offered for sale. It and other artefacts from the vessel will be auctioned in April and are expected to raise £120m. But the paper says it has caused anger among the descendants of those who died.

TheNews Letterreports that several former IRA members in south Armagh are seeking forgiveness for their actions during the Troubles. Ian Bothwell, of the Crossfire Trust in Darkley, tells the paper that he knows of ex-terrorists who are "in torment" over things they did in the past.

TheIrish Newsfocuses on a judge's ruling that a bus company faked the signature of the head of Tyrone GAA in a tender for a multi-million pound government contract. The paper points out that the coach company involved had previously been accused of running so-called "booze buses" to a Cookstown nightclub.

The surprise announcement of a referendum is the big story in Dublin. Enda Kenny's decision to give the voters a say on the European Stability Treaty is the Taoiseach's biggest test so far, according to theIrish Independent.

It says he has 10 weeks to persuade the public to support a treaty that would give Europe greater control of Ireland's budgets. It also points out that if people vote against, it will place a question mark over the Republic's membership of the euro.

TheIrish Timesdescribes it as "crucial". Its political columnist Stephen Collins says there is a danger that controversial domestic issues, such as the government's household charge and a new septic tank fee, could generate support for the no campaign.

The story also makes the lead in theFinancial Times. It says the referendum "plunges Europe into uncertainty" again.

The rescue of a British photographer in Syria is widely covered in London. It is the main story in theGuardian, which reports that Paul Conroy was smuggled to safety in an operation that cost the lives of 13 opposition volunteers.

TheDaily Telegraphsays the dramatic operation took advantage of a lull in the Syrian army's bombardment of the city of Homs. But as the group reached the outskirts, troops opened fire with rockets and tank shells.

According to theIndependent, those who helped rescue Mr Conroy are part of a network of activists who bring in vital medical supplies and bring out the wounded.

Among the other main stories is a report in theDaily Mailthat Chris Huhne, who was forced from ministerial office by the fact that he faced criminal charges, will receive a payoff worth £17,000. The paper says his decision to accept the money has caused accusations of hypocrisy, because the Liberal Democrats have condemned other ministers for accepting pay-offs.

And finally, theSunhighlights some ridiculous answers to exam papers. Teachers in the UK and US have contributed some of their students' daftest efforts to a website.

One science paper asked for one reason why someone might want to live beside power lines. The pupil wrote: Because you get your electricity faster.

Another asked candidates to name one of the early Romans' greatest achievements. The answer: Learning to speak Latin.

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