Northern Ireland

Snap Westminster election dominates local headlines

Theresa May in Downing Street Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Theresa May's no warning election announcement gave journalists a lot to do and not much time to do it

All three main Northern Ireland papers lead with Theresa May's surprise decision to call a snap election.

The Irish News says the "north's voters face their fourth major poll in two years", and that is before yet another assembly poll has been ruled out.

The paper says the SDLP "faces battle to retain its three seats", Sinn Féin will be aiming to retake Fermanagh and South Tyrone, a unionist pact is "likely in some constituencies" and that the election means a deal to restore a power-sharing executive at Stormont is now even less likely.

There's no less than 12 pages of election coverage in the Irish News, like journalists everywhere, the team at Donegall Street had a hectic day.

Unionist pact

The News Letter also talks about the the possibility of a unionist election pact. The paper's lead story says "leading unionists have prepared the ground for agreed candidates in some constituencies" ahead of the proposed general election.

The newly-crowned leader of the Ulster Unionists, Robin Swann, who is just 10 days in the job, says he's "open" to having talks on unionist electoral pacts.

The DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson hails the election as a "golden opportunity" for unionism to "bounce back" following the recent assembly election, which saw unionism lose its Stormont majority.

Image caption Little more than a week in the hot seat and the UUP's leader, Robin Swann, faces a huge test

The paper devotes its first 10 pages to news and analysis on the shock election announcement.

The Belfast Telegraph's lead story also concerns a possible unionist voting pact, with the addition of comments from the former Sinn Féin MLA, Daithí McKay.

He believes "Sinn Féin are keen for a nationalist deal" in Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

The paper dedicates a total of five pages to the election story.

Dublin view

Events in London are the primary concern of both the Irish Times and the Irish Independent - fears the election will derail the already floundering Stormont talks is prominent in their coverage.

That's also the focus of the Daily Mirror's main story: "Election won't stop talks".

Image copyright AP
Image caption James Brokenshire has a busy time ahead of him, steering Northern Ireland's politicians towards agreement and defending his Old Bexley and Sidcup seat

The paper carries comments from the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, James Brokenshire.

He has pledged to "fast-track" any potential Stormont deal through Parliament before it is dissolved.

Language

The Irish language has emerged as one of the primary sticking points in the talks aimed at re-establishing power sharing in Northern Ireland with unionist and nationalist parties taking diametrically opposing views with little room for compromise.

The issue features in the opinion and letter pages of all the Belfast papers.

In the Irish News, Brian Feeney lambasts DUP leader Arlene Foster's conditional offer to meet with Irish speakers as "too little, too late".

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption A car reversed through the metal shutter of Hair by Jakk's salon in Larne on Monday evening

In a full page piece in the Belfast Telegraph, commentator Malachi O'Doherty tackles the thorny question: Is the language just the preserve of the nationalist community?

Meanwhile, a letter writer in the News Letter, perhaps with tongue firmly in cheek, challenges Sinn Féin to abandon the use of English and use Irish exclusively.

The former SDLP MLA, Alban Maginness, has an opinion piece in the Belfast Telegraph. He's encouraging unionists to "discuss Irish unity now from a position of strength and not weakness", saying a nationalist majority "is likely within the next 20 years".

All three papers cover the series of attacks on property in Larne, County Antrim, in recent days.

The News Letter says a "falling out between individuals" may be behind the arsons, the Belfast Telegraph says a "climate of fear grips" the town.

What else is happening?

In a very different kind of story, the Belfast Telegraph has the heart warming news of how wildlife rescue worker Debbie Doolittle is hand rearing two tiny wee hatchlings which appear to have fallen from their nest.

The paper says the "wildlife lover steps in to take stricken birds under her wing".

Let's hope Debbie isn't too sad the day her tiny charges, suspected to be thrushes, fly the nest.

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