Northern Ireland

Newspaper review: Belfast's black-backpack security test

News Letter Image copyright News Letter

'Just how safe are we really?'

That's the dramatic headline in today's Belfast Telegraph.

Days after the UK's terror-threat level was raised to critical, the paper has sent a reporter to test the defences at various visitor attractions in Belfast.

The paper says it found "worrying security lapses" as a result of its experiment, which involved the journalist carrying a large rucksack similar to that used by Salman Abedi to carry explosives to the exit of the Ariana Grande concert.

Allan Preston writes: "Yesterday afternoon, this paper visited Titanic Belfast, the grounds of City Hall, the Odyssey pavilion and Victoria Square shopping centre.

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Image caption Armed police at the SSE Arena at the Odyssey pavillion in Belfast

"A black backpack was carried through the main entrances unchallenged and then left alone for around five minutes.

"On just one occasion, the bag was searched, by staff at City Hall."

He goes on to say that security guards were patrolling the Odyssey as the bag lay unattended.

Assistant Chief Constable Barbara Gary said: "The community in Northern Ireland should feel reassured that the police are deploying all available resources to deal with this threat, the threat of dissident republicans, and to continue to deliver a policing service to keep all communities safe."

A spokesperson for the Odyssey said: "We take the security of our customers extremely seriously," and a spokesperson from Titanic Belfast said they prioritised the security of its building, staff and guests.

Victoria Square were contacted but the Belfast Telegraph says they made no comment.

Unconscious

Also in the Belfast Telegraph is the claim that social workers were "warned repeatedly" about a teenager who died in a suspected drugs incident last weekend.

Caitlin White, 15, was found unconscious in a wooded area near Portadown.

A spokesperson for the Southern Health Trust said they had "no comment at all" to make.

On the front of the Irish News is a photograph of wooden pallets stacked in the back gardens of a row of houses.

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Image caption The bonfire in the Shankill area was one of dozens set alight in Belfast last year

The paper reports that the materials were being collected for bonfires, but it says that last night the supplies were due to be moved over concerns about safety.

That's after a row of terraced houses caught fire close to a large bonfire in the lower Shankill area last year.

On page three there's the news that Northern Ireland's Attorney General might feature in a landmark ruling on humanist wedding ceremonies.

Same-sex marriage

Belfast model Laura Lacole is challenging a refusal to officially authorise the ceremony at her wedding to Republic of Ireland footballer Eunan O'Kane next month.

John Larkin is now confirmed to have entered an appearance under a notice of devolution.

This means he could now make submissions when the hearing gets under way today.

The News Letter carries the same story on the humanist wedding debate - but leads with a different marriage story.

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Image caption The report called for an apology from the church

'Scotland church edges towards gay marriage' is the headline on the front page.

The story looks at a debate in the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland about whether there may be a way that same-sex marriage could be allowed in church.

The proposal was outlined in a report by the Theological Forum of the Church of Scotland, the News Letter reports.

The report also called for the church to apologise for its "history of discrimination against gay people".

In response to the debate, a spokesperson for the Presbyterian Church in Ireland told the paper: "Many people in the Presbyterian Church will be deeply saddened at today's development in Scotland, which, we believe, is at variance with the traditional biblical understanding of marriage."