Northern Ireland

Newspaper headlines: Sinn Féin in hot water over tweets

News Letter front page, 20 March Image copyright News Letter

Twitter is getting Sinn Féin into a flap.

Two separate tweets by party members form the basis for the lead stories in Tuesday's Belfast Telegraph and News Letter.

The Telegraph headline reads: "Anger over Ó Muilleoir 'Milltown collusion' allegation".

It reports that a former police chief has labelled a tweet by the party's MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir linking Northern Ireland's former police force, the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), to a loyalist murder as "ridiculous and offensive".

Mr Ó Muilleoir had been paying tribute to Thomas McErlean, 20, who was killed by loyalist Michael Stone at the funeral of three IRA members in Belfast's Milltown Cemetery 30 years ago.

Image copyright Sinn Féin
Image caption Máire Devine shared an offensive tweet about Irish prison officer Brian Stack, who was killed by the IRA in 1983

He tweeted that the young man had died "protecting mourners from the RUC-UDA attack".

However, former RUC Assistant Chief Constable Alan McQuillan tells the paper that this was "yet another attempt to rewrite history".

"It's no wonder we are in the position we are in politically," he says.

"I happened to be watching the helicopter coverage on that day. Police officers got to Stone as quickly as possible ...Police stayed out of the cemetery that day to facilitate the funeral. He was seen by the helicopter and then the first to get him were traffic officers on the M1 motorway."

The paper says Máirtín Ó Muilleoir had not responded to attempts to contact him: "SF man goes to ground" reads the Telegraph headline.

Another tweet, this time from a Sinn Féin senator in the Republic of Ireland takes the lead in the News Letter.

Austin Stack, whose father, Brian, a prison officer was murdered by the IRA, has called on the party to expel its Irish senator for sharing an offensive tweet calling his father a "sadist".

The paper reports that Máire Devine had been suspended by the party for three months for "unacceptable Twitter activity" but the News Letter reports that Austin Stack wants her expelled.

He said her apology was "not sincere" and that she had tried to belittle him by calling him "sensitive".

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Campbell's John McKee celebrates in style with his team

It has been a weekend of sporting victories and the News Letter's front page features what the paper calls a "classy Campbell college pictured holding aloft the Danske Bank Schools Cup after defeating Royal School Armagh.

Team captain John McKee holds the shield aloft - with a smile just as broad as the one on Rory Best's face at Twickenham.

The Irish News also devotes the top half of its front page to sporting heroes wielding silverware.

Jamie Haughey, captain of St Ronan's College, Lurgan, lifts the MacRory Cup in a true "top of the world" moment after his side's victory over St Mary's, Magherafelt.

His smile is as wide as Rory Best's and John McKee's put together.

The paper's headline writer turns poet for the occasion: "St Ronan's rise to MacRory glory."

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption The victory was a first for St Ronan's College and Jamie Haughey

The paper reports that this was the first MacRory Cup in the school's short history.

"It was always physical and often scrappy," writes sports reporter Andy Watters, "but St Ronan's kept their eyes on the prize and grabbed their first ever MacRory Cup."

Given that sporting champions with mile-wide smiles feature on the front pages, it is perhaps appropriate that the Telegraph is troubled about the state of the nation's smile.

Not everyone's gnashers are nice and in its Viewpoint, the Telegraph reports that a £9m dental bill for extracting young people's teeth in Northern Ireland is too much to swallow.

It's a "real kick in the teeth" says the editorial writer, noting that most of the teeth removed were baby ones which is "even more shocking".

And the message is that this is all easily preventable. Health chiefs take note.

From bad teeth to fudge, the Irish News leads with those Brexit negotiations and a warning to negotiators that they should not "fudge" the border issue.

Talks on the "thorny issue" are to begin next week writes Brendan Hughes, reporting that a "backstop" position that would see Northern Ireland effectively remaining within the single market and customs union was included in the latest document.

The paper's leader writer reflects that Brexit progress has been painfully slow.

The Mirror also features photographs of Campbell and St Ronan's celebrating sporting success.

But on a more sober note, it reports that the Northern Ireland economy is suffering from stunted growth.

It quotes experts who say that it is struggling and will deliver the lowest growth across the UK.

The manufacturing industry offers some hope, the paper reports.

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption Martin McGuinness served as Northern Ireland's deputy first minister for ten years

Finally, Wednesday marks a year since Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness, Northern Ireland's former deputy first minister died. The former IRA leader turned peace maker was 66.

The Irish News devotes four pages of analysis and reflections to him.

The paper quotes former taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Bertie Ahern who helped negotiate the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Ahern says he believes history will judge Martin McGuinness kindly.

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