Northern Ireland

NI newspaper review: Watch your language!

News Letter Image copyright News Letter

A reptilian row over Irish dominated Stormont's last election campaign, but DUP leader Arlene Foster appears to be softening her language on the issue.

Her bid to "respect and indeed better understand the language and culture that we are not a part of" leads both the Irish News and the News Letter.

The offer came as the government imposed a new May deadline for a deal.

But Mrs Foster qualifies her remarks, saying she wants to meet Irish speakers "without party political baggage".

She describes this group as "people who genuinely love the Irish language and don't want to use it as a political weapon".

The qualification will no doubt be seen as a snap at Sinn Féin and its demand for an Irish language act, but the DUP leader's statement struck a considerably different tone to her pre-election stance.

Image caption DUP leader Arlene Foster says she wants to meet people who 'genuinely love the Irish language'

In February, when asked about the DUP's position on the Irish language act, Mrs Foster compared Sinn Féin to "crocodiles" who kept coming back for more.

But writing in the Belfast Telegraph, her party colleague and former Culture Minister, Nelson McCausland, says a "stand-alone" act would make Northern Ireland a "cold house for unionists".

Mr McCausland says "actions speak louder than words" and criticises the "Irish first" policy of Newry, Mourne and Down Council on recently erected road signs in the district.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Earlier this year, activists embraced Arlene Foster's 'crocodiles' insult as they campaigned for an Irish language act

Sensitive files

The arrest of a former employee of the Police Ombudsman's Office also makes the front page of the News Letter and features prominently in other local papers.

The watchdog investigates complaints against the Police Service of Northern Ireland but had to call in the PSNI over allegations that documents were stolen and passed to lawyers.

The Irish News highlights the fact that the PSNI has temporarily stopped sharing sensitive files with the ombudsman, pending a review of security measures.

The Daily Mirror leads with the headline "Dambusters" - reporting on the "destruction" of a dam wall in County Antrim, which has caused concern due to the area's function as a bird habitat.

Image caption Mud flats were exposed when owner of Hydepark Dam drained much of the water last week

The paper says the owners of the dam insisted they had carried out approved work to reduce the risk of flooding.

However, wildlife expert Debbie Nelson tells the Mirror that of the 15 swans nesting in the area, only two remain.

Grave concerns

She adds: "They can't escape because they need a long run to take off, but there's not enough water."

Belfast City Council is taking action after grave concerns were raised about the safety of headstones in its cemeteries.

The Belfast Telegraph reports that council is considering the use of a machine known as the "ToppleTester" to check the stability of memorials.

The paper says the machine applies a "controlled force" to headstones to check if they can withstand a force of 25kg (3.9 st).

If memorials fail the topple test, grave owners will be contacted and told to carry out repair work.

It follows on from the council's decision to cordon off more than 100 "unstable" graves in Roselawn Cemetery earlier this week, which caused "upset" to relatives, the paper said.

Fry-high costs

Finally, all the papers warn we may be tightening our belts with news that the price of an Ulster fry has risen to a three-year high.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Economists are using the 'Ulster Fry Index' to help explain bread and butter financial issues in layman's terms

Pork sausages and tomatoes have seen the biggest rise, while margarine has gone up a "whopping" 29%.

Many countries around the world use a local product or basket of familiar goods to help monitor prices - the Cappuccino Index being just one example.

Northern Ireland now has its own unique economic indicator to help us count our pennies, if not our calories.

"Ours is the The Ulster Fry Index," explains Ulster Bank economist Richard Ramsey.

"It hopefully gives the man or woman on the street a clearer idea of why their household finances are currently the way the are."