Northern Ireland

Weekly newspapers: Fake cocaine and Ed Sheeran feature

Ballymena Times Image copyright Ballymena Times
Ulster Gazette Image copyright Ulster Gazette
Impartial Reporter Image copyright Impartial Reporter
Down Recorder Image copyright Down Recorder
Coleraine Times Image copyright Coleraine Times
Tyrone Consitution Image copyright Tyrone Constitution

Lethal substances, pop sensations, sledgehammer-wielding vandals and online scams feature in Northern Ireland's local papers this week.

"Fake cocaine death drug was sold on our streets" is the headline on the front page of the Ballymena Times.

The story says that a letter circulated to health professionals across Northern Ireland states that the substance - U47,700 - is available in the Ballymena area.

It says the powder has been linked to two deaths in Northern Ireland during November and December 2016, and to three further three cases in December where the user was found unconscious.

The letter says some of those who have used it have been sold it as cocaine, while others may have believed it was heroin.

The paper also reports that an Ahoghill man who assaulted security staff and police with a walking stick in Ballymena Courthouse is one of the first people in the area to be served with a Violent Offences Prevention Order (VOPO).

The Ulster Gazette has the story of the Armagh musician who's been "hand-picked by pop sensation" Ed Sheeran to play on his new album.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Ed Sheeran chose Brian Finnegan, a flautist and tin whistle player, to play on his new album

Brian Finnegan, a flautist and tin whistle player, said he first came to Sheeran's attention after guesting on an album by County Antrim band Beoga.

He said Sheeran "invited the band over to his place to get a feel for each other's music. It was a very organic process, hanging out and jamming."

Brian plays on four songs on Sheeran's new album Divide.

Elsewhere in the paper, the grand-niece of a teenaged soldier killed in the Battle of the Somme tells of her pride that his experiences have been immortalised in a comic book created by three Northern Ireland museums.

Helen McComb discovered her great-uncle Tommy Chambers' diary after it had lain undiscovered in an attic for decades.

The events of his time as a soldier now feature in the educational comic book For Valour.

Vandals arriving earlier

The problem of vandalism is to the fore in the Coleraine Times.

Translink has issued a "perpetrators will be prosecuted" warning due to the activities of a group of teenagers at the town's railways station.

Last month the decision was taken to close the station at 19:00 GMT due to their activities.

"They are now coming in earlier than 19:00," Translink's David Simpson tells the paper, adding that there can be as many as 40 youths involved and that they age in range from 12 to 20.

"What they are doing when they get chased out of Coleraine is going to Ballymoney to try and vandalise it."

Meanwhile, the paper says that a spate of vandalism at nearby Portstewart's Diversity Park is "hurting the most vulnerable".

Much of the park's apparatus is adapted for children with disabilities. In the latest incident an attempt was made to set fire to one piece of equipment.

Helicopter tragedy

The Irish Coastguard helicopter crash tragedy in which four crew members are assumed to have lost their lives features in the Down Recorder.

Image copyright RTÉ
Image caption Mourne Mountain Rescue Team worked many times with crew of the Irish Coastguard helicopter tragedy

Members of the Mourne Mountain Rescue Team, who worked closely with the helicopter crew on rescues and training exercises, say they are devastated by what happened.

"We had a very close and strong working relationship with the crew and know the individuals very well," said the team's Martin McMullan.

"What happened is very hard to digest."

Collapsing boat

Meanwhile, safety fears are raised about an abandoned boat that has become a feature of Dundrum Bay.

Photographer Wilfie Swain tells the paper that one side of the hull has completely collapsed and he is concerned for the safety of children who often play in it.

"The upper deck is made of steel and is very heavy," he says. "It does not bear thinking about what the consequences would be if it collapsed on top of someone."

A sledgehammer-wielding vandal has stuck fear into elderly people living on the outskirts of Castlederg, the Tyrone Constitution says.

Wooden fences of a number of homes were damaged and concrete posts were also smashed at some.

"Some of these victims, who are elderly and live alone, have told me of the fear they experienced in this early hours of Saturday morning when they heard the damage being caused, but were too afraid to get up to see what was happening," MLA Tom Buchanan tells the paper.

The paper also shows two eight-week old collie pups "left to die" close to a busy road near Carrickmore.

Image copyright Tyrone Constitution
Image caption The rescued pups with Richard Robinson and Janice Porter of Grovehill Animal Trust

Thankfully they were rescued by a farmer who contacted Grovehill Animal Trust. The pups are now at a foster home.

"It is extremely upsetting," Grovehill's Richard Robinson said.

"It's a miracle these pups have survived and it's shocking how little regard was given to their welfare. No animal deserves to suffer like this."

Pressure on carers in County Fermanagh features in the Impartial Reporter.

Florencecourt man Jimmy Leonard, who was paralysed from the chest down in a car crash tells paper he fears he will soon have no carers to look after him.

He says there are not enough carers and they are under too much pressure, some of them working until midnight.

"I just want care. They need a rest, they are working too many days," he says.

Money up in smoke

The paper also has the story of the Enniskillen woman who says her money went up in smoke after a costly e-cigarette online order.

Rita Cassidy tells the paper she ordered a free trial starter kit with just a £4.95 shipping charge from an online company.

She says she went into "panic stations" when she discovered that £70 was being drawn from her account every other week for filters, something she says she did not sign up to.