Northern Ireland

NI paper review: End of empire and an excuse for a party?

News Letter Image copyright News Letter

A bishop's big fat wedding insult, the predicted "collapse" of the EU and sectarian threats make Friday's papers.

The News Letter and Irish News both lead with the story of how four Catholic families have been forced to flee a cross-community housing estate.

Cantrell Close in south east Belfast was supposed to be a "flagship" estate - part of a Stormont strategy to end sectarian divisions in public housing.

Sinn Féin claims the UVF is to blame for forcing the Catholic families out.

"No proof'

But the News Letter says police "will not speculate" on who was responsible.

Image caption There was controversy earlier this year when UVF flags were put up in the area

The paper carries a statement from the East Belfast Community Initiative, which claims to "mediate on behalf of ex-combatants linked to east Belfast UVF".

The group said Sinn Féin had "no proof that any threat was issued by the UVF" and accused the party of pushing "their anti-unionist cultural war".

The estate hit the headlines earlier this year after loyalist paramilitary flags were erected on lampposts.

The Irish News says South Belfast MP Emma Little Pengelly has been defending her response at the time.

The DUP representative says she offered to "personally remove" the flags but adds residents told her that was not the "best option".

Elsewhere in the east of the city, the Daily Mirror reports that children were sent home from a primary school after a threat was made to pupils' safety.

Elmgrove Primary closed early on Thursday and remains closed on Friday after the school was informed of a telephone threat.

Image caption Elmgrove Primary School was also closed in 2015 after a 'malicious' email threat

It is not the first time the school has been the subject of a threat. A man in his 30s was arrested.

'Rise and fall of empire'

The Belfast Telegraph leads with unionist "fury" over a European Parliament call for Northern Ireland to remain in the single market and customs union after Brexit.

Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson claims that would effectively "place an international border" between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Meanwhile, the party's former director of communications is predicting the "collapse" of the European Union, in its current form.

In an opinion piece for the Irish News, commentator Alex Kane says all "empires" rise and fall and the EU "won't be the exception".

Concern over missed targets for cancer treatment cases is widely reported in Friday's papers.

The Belfast Telegraph reports that 95% of patients with an "urgent referral" for suspected cancer are supposed to begin treatment within two months.

However, only 68% of these patients are starting treatment within the deadline in Northern Ireland.

The worst-performing area is the South Eastern Health Trust, which only managed to treat 53% of patients within the target.

Elsewhere, decades-old Troubles atrocities are continuing to make headlines.

The News Letter reports that two police forces have paid compensation over the death of a forensic officer who investigated the 1984 Brighton bomb.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Brighton's Grand Hotel was bombed by the IRA in 1984

Jonathan Woods, who was one of the first on the scene of the hotel explosion, died in 2015 from asbestos-related cancer.

The paper says he was referred to as the "sixth victim" of the fatal IRA attack, after he claimed he did not get adequate protection from asbestos exposure.

The Belfast Telegraph reports that two former members of the Official IRA could face charges over the events of Bloody Sunday 45 years ago.

The PSNI is conducting a murder inquiry into the deaths of 14 people who were shot by the Army in Londonderry on 30 January 1972.

Supporters of Army veterans have recently campaigned against what they claim is a "one-sided witch-hunt" by prosecutors against former soldiers.

Now the Belfast Telegraph say the PSNI has reported one former Official IRA member to the Public Prosecution Service and is preparing a file on another.

'Emotionally unhygienic'

Staying in Derry, the city's most senior Catholic clergyman is not impressed with the wedding celebrations of couples who have been living together before marriage.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Is a wedding just a big fat excuse for a party?

Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown claims that for many co-habiting couples, marriage has just become an excuse for a party.

The News Letter quotes the cleric complaining about "our emotionally unhygienic culture".

He says "the marriage ceremony marks, not a transition point in people's lives, but rather the time when they have been living together and gathered enough money for a big party".