Northern Ireland

NI weekly paper review: Bishop's apology among weekly headlines

Newry Reporter front page 21/02/2018 Image copyright Newry Reporter
Strabane Weekly News front page 21.02/18 Image copyright Strabane Weekly News
Antrim Guardian front page 21/02/18 Image copyright Antrim Guardian
Impartial Reporter Image copyright Impartial Reporter
Portadown Times 23/02/18 Image copyright Portadown Times
Derry Journal front page 23/02 Image copyright Derry Journal

A narrow escape from a "runaway jeep", local grief over the tragic Florida school shooting and a man beaten and set on fire in his own home - just some of the stories jumping from the front pages of Northern Ireland's weekly newspapers over the last seven days.

Possibly the most arresting front page of all comes from the Newry Reporter, which leads with the stark headline: "I'm sorry".

The apology is by the Bishop of Dromore, John McAreavey who told the newspaper he regretted officiating at the 2002 funeral of Fr Malachy Finnegan, who sexually abused boys at a school in County Down.

The Diocese of Dromore has reached a settlement with one of 12 victims to come forward.

The bishop said his involvement in Fr Finnegan's funeral was "simply a mistake".

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption The Newry Reporter carries an extensive interview with Bishop of Dromore, John McAreavey

As part of an extensive interview, spread across three pages in the newspaper, the bishop says that he "made a decision not say one word of praise or acknowledgement of his (Fr Finnegan's) ministry" in his funeral remarks.

He also said that he regretted not putting out a public statement about Fr Finnegan earlier and that he would not be stepping down as bishop.

Elsewhere, the paper reports that a health expert has allayed fears that high rates of cancer in area have been caused by high emissions of a radioactive gas in the Mourne Mountains.

The Mournes has the highest level of radon gas in Northern Ireland and the BT34 postcode - which includes Newry, Kilkeel, Hilltown, Annalong and Mayobridge - had the recorded highest incidence of some cancers in Northern Ireland between 2001 and 2010.

Family 'distraught'

However, Dr Gerry Waldron from the Public Health Agency says the gas was not responsible and that it was only a threat when high levels built up indoors.

"If you are outside, the gas comes out of the soil and decimates and becomes extremely diluted and it's gone with the wind.

"So the greatest risk is if you're living in an area with high levels of radon and that is easily checked."

Meanwhile, the Antrim Guardian's front page focuses on the grief of a family in Toomebridge, whose granddaughter was one of 17 people killed in a school shooting in Florida.

Cara Loughran was the youngest of the 17 victims who died at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Image copyright Loughran Family
Image caption Cara Loughran was a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

Her father was originally from Toomebridge and the paper reports that Cara was due to visit her grandparents, Paddy and Ellie Loughran, and extended family in the area this summer.

Local parish priest Fr Paddy McWilliams said the grandparents were "distraught" and "broken-hearted" at the loss of Cara.

"The wee family was coming home for the summer, as they do regularly, but that's not going to happen now," he says.

The front page also looks back at a tragic chapter in Northern Ireland's Troubles, the La Mon hotel bombing, on the 40th anniversary of the attack.

It spoke with Antrim woman Rita Crawford, who lost her daughter and husband in the bombing.

She told the paper that the night of the bombing was "a glimpse through the gates of hell".

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Twelve people were killed in the La Mon bomb in 1978

"It's with you all the time. It never goes away. It's a wound that never heals," she said.

Over in County Fermanagh, a DUP councillor told the Impartial Reporter he thought he was going to be killed after he was injured by a "runaway" jeep and trailer carrying cattle in a scene he described as like "something out of a movie".

Paul Robinson had just left a petrol garage on Saturday evening when the vehicle careered down a steep hill in Fivemiletown.

The 58-year-old said he was "a wee bit emotional" after his lucky escape.

"I thought that was the end of me," he told the paper.

"I thought, I am going to be squeezed against this wall."

Bloody nose

The vehicle hit Mr Robinson's car, where his daughter was sitting inside, and spun it around onto his foot, but Mr Robinson was able to get his foot out from under the car and he was taken to hospital by ambulance.

The police said that four other vehicles were damaged in the incident, no one else was injured and the cattle in the trailer were not reported to have been injured either.

The paper also reports that a man has been jailed for leaving his partner with a bloody nose after assaulting her in the street.

Mark Sheridan from Ann Street, Enniskillen, pleaded guilty to three charges of common assault at Fermanagh Magistrates' Court.

The paper reports that the victim did not cooperate with police, but CCTV footage showed Sheridan attack the woman.

He was sentenced to nine months in prison.

Domestic abuse is also the front page story in this week's Derry Journal, with its Friday edition leading with the headline: "Domestic abuse survivors are 're-victimised."

That's the view of Donna Marie Logue, the founder of north-west based charity La Dolce Vita Project.

'Derry deserves better'

The group is campaigning for better treatment for people reporting abuse.

"The situation isn't over for the victim when the court case ends," she told the paper.

"When someone's identity has been stripped away over a number of years, it takes a lot of effort to build up that self-esteem. We have to ask ourselves: "Is it just and fair that the whole court process can lead to re-victimisation?"

Meanwhile, the newspaper's Tuesday edition focused on a regular hot topic for the city's citizens - what to do with Londonderry's Waterside railway station?

Image copyright Google
Image caption The old Waterside train station was originally built in the 1800s

Translink has published plans for a multi-million pound redevelopment that would see the original station, a listed building, reopen.

However, more than 1,400 people have signed a petition calling on planners to reject the proposal as the city "deserves better", according to the Derry Journal.

The petition signers want the plans to be changed so that trains will go inside the station house and not pull up alongside it.

It also accuses Translink of intending "to convert the historic building into an incredibly bland waiting room, office space, staff rooms etc - everything except an actual station for trains".

In response, Translink says the proposed development will be "an important gateway to the North West for visitors and will regenerate the local area".

In County Tyrone, the Strabane Weeekly News reports on a harrowing case in which a local man was tied-up, robbed and set on fire in his own home.

Mickey Diver was in his home last Saturday when two men broke into his home and attacked him.

'Burned and bleeding'

He received several injuries including blows to the head, a cut to his wrist and burns after they set fire to the bottom of his tracksuit.

"I don't know why they attacked me. I think they wanted to burn my house down," he told the paper.

"I was terrified when they started to burn my tracksuit and hit my head.

"I couldn't get away. I was burned and bleeding. I don't know if I want to live here any more."

Elsewhere, Strabane can take its place among the parking fine hot spots of County Tyrone according to latest figures.

More than 1,800 parking tickets were issued in the town in 2016 - the third most among towns in the county, behind Omagh and Cookstown.

'Dangerous'

Over in County Armagh, the Portadown Times leads with a damning indictment of the state of local roads.

Image copyright Thomas O'Hanlon
Image caption The surface at Farnaloy Road, Madden, in County Armagh

Two DUP MLAs have said that roads in the Portadown area were "dangerous" because of potholes.

Jonathan Buckley and William Irwin met the deputy secretary of the Department for Infrastructure to raise their concerns.

Mr Irwin said: "The fact is holes go unfixed for many weeks, becoming deeper and deeper and costing thousands of pounds in claims for damage to vehicles."

'World-class'

Elsewhere in the paper there's some good news - two buildings in the area have been nominated for awards from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

Pump House, built in 1929 as part of the town's drainage system, and the Dye House at Ulster Carpets have been shortlisted in the commercial category.

Michael Hannaway, chair of the judging panel, said: "Despite the uncertainty in the current climate, Northern Ireland's property professionals continue to deliver exemplary and, in many cases, world-class built projects that are having a profoundly positive impact."