Northern Ireland

Weekly paper review: Huge wasp nest, transgender camp

Fermanagh Herald Image copyright Fermanagh Herald
ULster Gazette Image copyright Alpha Newspapers
Antrim Guardian Image copyright Antrim Guardian
Chronicle Image copyright Alpha Newspapers
Down Recorder Image copyright Down Recorder

Those with Spheksophobia (that's a fear of wasps) should look away now, because a rugby-ball sized wasp nest sits proudly on the front page of this week's Antrim Guardian.

The paper reports that a pensioner is breathing a sigh of relief after having the gigantic structure removed from her home.

Hazel Wilson said she was "terrified" because the only way in and out of her home in Antrim was past the nest.

"I have never seen a wasp nest as big as this," she told the paper.

Image copyright abadonian
Image caption The Housing Executive have promised to remove the nest

She claimed she got in touch with Antrim and Newtownabbey Council who initially told her that it did not employ pest control services.

After contacting the Antrim Guardian and the Housing Executive (HE) it was agreed that the HE would remove the nest last Friday.

But Ms Wilson said she waited all day and no one arrived.

A HE spokesperson said: "Unfortunately our pest control sub-contractor has been very busy and was unable to attend to the property as agreed last Friday, however the nest is due to be removed on Monday."

A council spokesperson said: "Neither of the two legacy councils had a pest control service.

"Most common pests can be controlled or treated using products that are widely available through retail outlets."

'Get down'

However, the paper reports that the council's website states that it is "not advisable" to try to treat large nests or infestations yourself.

The Antrim Guardian also reports on a robbery in Randalstown in which staff and customers were ordered to get down on the floor.

Masked men burst into Spar Drummaul and raided the tills, the paper reports.

No one was hurt but those involved were left badly shaken. Police have appealed for witnesses.

Money money money

There's a big bill for Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, according to the Coleraine Chronicle.

The paper reports that the council has "accumulated more debt than any other local authority in Northern Ireland". The figures come from the Local Government and Auditor's report, issued last week.

The borrowings amount to £482 per person compared to a Northern Ireland average of £264 per person

However the council responded that it had inherited the debt from the old borough councils of Coleraine, Ballymoney, Limavady and Moyle, after they merged.

"(We) inherited the debt of four legacy councils, whereas all other councils inherited two or three portfolios," a council spokesperson said.

Save the bees

Image copyright Dorset County Council
Image caption The Don't Mow, Let it Grow project aims to change the management of council park grasslands and road verges

A renegade in a blue tractor has ruined part of a Council-lead biodiversity project in Garvagh.

A grass verge on the Drumcroon Road near Garvagh, which was part of a project to encourage wildlife, was mowed down by the rogue tractor driver.

The Don't Mow, Let it Grow project aims to change the management of council park grasslands and road verges.

Letting grasses and wildflowers grow on sites "provides nesting sites and feeding for important pollinators such as bees and butterflies".

The project managers are appealing to the driver to come forward so the benefits of the project can be explained to them, and to ensure same thing won't happen again.

Transgender camp

The past few years have seen transgender issues thrust into the spotlight, perhaps due in part to the well-publicised transition of Caitlyn Jenner.

If you think about the subject, perhaps County Fermanagh may not immediately spring to mind.

However, the Fermanagh Herald reports that the small village of Derrygonnelly played host to transgender people from all over Europe as part of the European Trans and Intersex Summer Camp.

The camp was organised by Gender Jam NI and took place in the Tir Navar Centre holiday village for one week.

About 60 people attended from Ireland, Slovenia, Norway, Iceland, Russia and Germany.

Liam Jones, who runs Tir Navar, said: "The group were very emotional and sad to leave on Sunday - they really enjoyed their time with the community here where they were accepted."

The paper reports that local people were "delighted" with their visitors.

Image caption None of the players were seriously injured at Tulane Strand

Meanwhile, the paper reports that a crisis has been averted in Bundoran.

A Fermanagh youth football team's training session nearly ended in "tragedy" on Saturday, but thanks to a group of hero surfers, the story had a happy ending.

Players and coaches with the team were enjoying a paddle after their session when they said a "freak current" pulled some of them out to sea at Tullan Strand.

The players, aged 16 and 17, got into trouble but a group of "quick thinking surfers" including lifeboat crew member Owen Murphy, entered the water on a surf board and helped the footballers to safety.

Well done those men.

'Golden handshakes'

More council spending, and The Ulster Herald reports that Fermanagh and Omagh District Council has been criticised because of a "big pay off for council staff".

The paper claims 21 employees were given "golden handshakes" totalling £1.6m during its first year of operation.

The Taxpayers' Alliance aren't happy and said there is a lesson here to make sure councils "negotiate the best possible contracts in the future".

However the council has robustly defended the pay-outs saying the costs were "exceptional".

"These payments were in line with the regionally agreed severance scheme that supported local government reforms and the contractual entitlements of the staff," it added.

Elsewhere in County Tyrone, the future's bright for young people, several with schools celebrating the success of a shared education project.

Castlederg High School, Killen PS, St Cairealls PS, Fermanagh PS, St Josephs PS and Ardshaw Jubilee PS all took part in the Shared Education Signature project.

It brings together young people from different communities to learn.

Co-ordinator Diane Moore said the project, which involved the children learning about diversity, technology, had got off to a "great start".

'Mankini'

There's a happy-looking fellow on the front of the Down Recorder and a startling headline to go with it: "European journey with a mankini".

The man in question is Crossgar student Ciaran Crothers who, despite the headline, is not pictured in his mankini, but on rather on his bike, in respectable clothing.

Mr Crothers is cycling 6,000 km around Europe in just two months, in the hope of raising £5,000 for charity.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Mankini?

The mysterious mention of a mankini refers to a challenge his sister has set him. She says she'll sponsor him £500 if he cycles around Paris in a mankini.

Mr Crothers tells the paper that the item of clothing, popularised by the character Borat, is in his bag: "I think people underestimate the lack of respect I have for myself.

"It will be all in the name of fun though".

On a more serous note, the paper reports that a Downpatrick man who contracted hepatitis C in a contaminated blood scandal has welcomed the announcement of a public inquiry.

Brian Carberry, from Downpatrick, has been at the centre of a campaign for justice after imported supplies of a blood clotting agent are thought to have killed at least 2,400 people.

Thousands of people were infected with Hepatitis C and HIV through NHS blood products in the 1970s and 80s.

This week's announcement of a public inquiry from Theresa May came after six party leaders signed a joint letter calling for an inquiry.

He says he wants justice and "proof there's been a cover up for the last 30 years".

'Dog dirt'

A Syrian family who escaped "hell" to start a new life in Armagh, has thanked the people of the city for the warm welcome they received when they came one year ago.

The Ulster Gazette reports that the Alisa family, from Aleppo, have re-established their lives in Armagh, with the children enrolling in local school and mum and dad Lena and Issa learning English.

Lena, a former teacher said, "When we arrived and saw the welcoming nature of people with their smiling faces we felt more at ease and relaxed."

There are now over 500 refugees living in Northern Ireland, with the latest group of ten families arriving last month.

Meanwhiel, officials in Armagh have thought of a new way to tackle everyone's favourite bugbear - dog dirt.

The council has started to spray paint, "Clean-up or pay up," on entrances to the Mall, in an ongoing campaign to reduce dog fouling.

The council hopes reminding people in a less than subtle way that they should clean up after their dogs or risk receiving an £80 fine will do the trick.

One park user told the paper that last autumn the level of dog mess was so bad he was forced to "walk with his head down" just to enjoy a stroll around the park.