Northern Ireland

Paper review: Rural crime and continental surgery

Farmers are fighting back against rural crime - that's the big story on the front of the Belfast Telegraph and the News Letter.

Both papers report that farms have been turned into "fortresses," to avoid having equipment stolen.

A new report from the National Farmers' Union (NFU) Mutual, reveals rural crime is costing the agricultural sector £2.5m a year, with all-terrain vehicles and power tools being the most commonly stolen.

Martin Malone, NFU regional manager, tells the News Letter that farmers have been forced to use tracking devices, infrared surveillance and even DNA markers on livestock.

There's a bittersweet picture on the front of the Belfast Telegraph - Ulster Rugby player Stephen Ferris and his bride Laura McNally - who got married at the weekend in County Cavan.

It was am emotional day for the couple, who tied the knot on the 18th anniversary of the Ulster Grand Prix race which claimed the life of Laura's father, Owen McNally.

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Image caption The Irish News says almost £650,000 has been paid back to patients who travelled to EU for surgery by the HSCB

The Irish News goes in a different direction. The paper claims that "desperate patients" are paying for operations in eastern Europe.

We hear about a woman from Belfast who is travelling to Lithuania for a shoulder operation, due to potentially long waiting lists in Northern Ireland.

Hazel Williams, who broke her shoulder kayaking in Thailand six years ago, is going to the continent for her surgery instead.

The paper reports that she is not alone.

It reports that since 2013, hundreds of people have travelled to clinics in EU countries for surgery, with the intention of being reimbursed by the health service.

Almost £650,000 has been paid back to patients by the Northern Ireland's Health and Social Care Board (HSCB), as part of a European scheme, adds the paper.

The HSCB said 278 cases had been "approved for reimbursement". Belfast GP Dr Michael McKenna tells the paper the development is "shameful".

"In my 20 years as a GP these are the worst waiting lists I've encountered, yet it's tolerated by our health service," he says.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The new Thelma and Louise - but where's their convertible?

Fans of female duos, there's a new Thelma and Louise in town. Sort of.

The Belfast Telegraph interviews a Belfast actress who is set to play former first minister Arlene Foster in a new play, Michelle and Arlene, which has been inspired by the cult film.

Antoinette Morelli tells the paper the prospect of treading the boards as Mrs Foster is "nerve-racking".

She says she is keen to do the role justice when she plays the part of the DUP leader from 24 August.

Reports that the DUP and Sinn Féin northern leaders have been seen whizzing around Stormont in a convertible, with headscarves, are as yet unconfirmed.

The News Letter tries to answer a tricky question about the "prospect of Irish Unity in the wake of Brexit".

Can Sinn Féin uphold unionists' identity and citizenship in the event of constitutional change? Commentator Alex Kane isn't so sure.

His column points to a recent panel on which he sat with Mrs O'Neill.

She told a gathering that while she was neither "naïve nor insensitive" about unionist unease over the prospect of "Irish unity", a united Ireland could be achieved "without sacrificing their identity or citizenship".

But Alex Kane says these guarantees "don't add up to hill of beans", saying unless there is a guarantee of a border poll after such an event, in which unionists could vote to join the UK again, the words are cold comfort.