Northern Ireland

NI weekly papers: Lucky escape and right royal coincidence

Antrim Guardian Image copyright Antrim Guardian
Impartial Reporter Image copyright Impartial Reporter
Portadown Times Image copyright Portadown Times
Mid-Ulster Mail Image copyright Mid-Ulster Mail
Coleraine Chronicle Image copyright Coleraine Chronicle
Down Recorder Image copyright Down Recorder

This week's local papers are full of firsts - Prince Louis the First, fresh prince of Crossgar; a proposal for Northern Ireland's first park designed specifically for dogs and the NHS first responders who have to answer distress calls about crossword puzzles.

But let's start with the more serious stuff.

The front page of the Antrim Guardian features a disturbing photo of the aftermath of an arson attack on a family home in the town's Springfarm estate.

Eight children all under the age of 13 were asleep inside the house when a "ferocious" fire was started outside, melting their toy cars and destroying a garden shed.

One of the children has special needs, but the whole family managed to escape the blaze as flames were "licking the side of the property".

Image copyright Antrim Guardian
Image caption The fierce heat from the blaze melted the children's toys and gutted a garden shed

Their mother thanked neighbours for coming to their aid, and she tells the paper her family "will not be intimidated or bullied from our home".

'Falling over drunk'

Inside the Guardian, there are calls for alcohol to be banned from "family fun days" in Antrim's Steeple estate.

It follows controversy over a fun day organised by the Steeple Defenders Flute Band last month, which reportedly "descended into chaos".

The paper says the event was "overrun by boozed-up teens" with reports of underage drinkers vomiting and "falling over drunk".

Community leader Ray Taylor has vowed it would be the last time the event would be hosted, but residents have expressed concern about other forthcoming fun days over the Twelfth of July period.

'Faceless people'

A suspected campaign of intimidation against the developers of a new wind farm in County Fermanagh makes the front page of the Impartial Reporter.

The paper lists a recent fake pipe bomb; threats to construction workers; the vandalism of 17 electricity poles and the discovery of a burning gas cylinder under a bridge as incidents believed to be connected to the Teiges Mountain Wind Farm dispute.

Image caption A security alert on Teiges Hill Road last month was caused by a hoax pipe bomb

Now, several residents living near the site in Brookeborough have had enough of the disruption and have written an open letter to the Reporter.

Their letter says they are "disgusted" by the actions of the "faceless people" behind the threats and calls on them to stop.

'Off the leash'

The paper also reports on a councillor's proposal to create "specially-designed dog parks" in Enniskillen and Omagh.

Sorcha McAnespy says local townsfolk have nowhere suitable to let their pooches off the lead and let them "get a good run".

She told her council colleagues the idea was inspired by her friends in New York, who regularly walk their pets in dedicated dog parks.

"The more I talk to dog owners, the more I've come to realise that dogs are often members of the family," the Independent councillor said.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The park would be a place where pets can be let off the leash and play with other dogs

A "war of words" over Irish language lessons in a County Armagh school is the top story in the Portadown Times.

Independent Unionist Councillor David Jones sparked the row by criticising Portadown Integrated Primary on social media.

He described Irish as a "hobby language" that has "no use in everyday life in any part of Ireland".

Mr Jones questioned the allocation of public money to Irish at a time when overall school budgets were under pressure.

The principal said the lessons were funded by Stormont's Central Good Relations fund and his school had availed of an "excellent, no cost opportunity".

'What's your emergency?'

The Portadown Times also carries out an in depth examination of the out-of-hours GP service in the Southern Health Trust.

The operations manager says the trust is working hard to attract doctors to cover shifts, but says they are "reliant on GPs giving up their time after normal working hours".

The paper also speaks to an out-of-hours call handler at the Craigavon-based facility, who has to deal with some "absurd calls" as well as serious medical emergencies.

"We get unusual calls such as people with hangovers or even people looking help to answer a crossword puzzle"

Public v private

In County Tyrone, plans to build a new £8m health and well-being village in Cookstown are "well advanced," according to the Mid-Ulster Mail.

A site on Loy Street has been identified which could accommodate 16 family doctors, a pharmacy and other healthcare services.

Image copyright Mid-Ulster Mail
Image caption A computer-generated image of plans for the new health village in Cookstown

The Mail describes it as a "first for Northern Ireland" because the building is being developed by a private investment fund, with support from the town's four GP surgeries.

The paper points out that just days ago, local politicians voiced concern over the shelving of plans for a publicly-funded health and social care hub.

Gay farmers

Staying with healthcare, the paper says Queen's University researchers are embarking on a three-year study to help farmers who are "struggling with their sexuality".

One of the researchers, Dr Kieran Mullholland, says that statistically, farmers and gay men are at a higher risk of isolation, depression and suicide.

The psychiatrist added that it "seems reasonable to assume that a gay isolated farmer is even more at risk".

The aim of the study is to improve mental health services and "ultimately save lives".

Image copyright Inpho
Image caption Coleraine FC are the 2018 Irish Cup champions

Only one story could lead this week's Coleraine Chronicle - the town's football team is celebrating its first Irish Cup title in 15 years.

"We did it!" the front page headline proclaims, with the team's manager, Oran Kearney, and its chairman, Colin McKendry, pictured celebrating together on the pitch.

After their 3-1 victory over Belfast club Cliftonville in the final, the players are to be honoured with a civic reception hosted by their very proud local mayor.

Royal wedding

The Chronicle also speaks to a charity fundraiser who has been invited to the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Glenda Rodgers McCormick is among 1,200 members of the public who have been nominated to attend the ceremony in the grounds of Windsor Castle next Saturday, 19 May.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Prince Harry will marry Meghan Markle next weekend and a Bushmills woman is among their guests

She was chosen in recognition for running the Bushmills Through the Wars exhibition, which has raised more than £40,000 for various charities over the last 10 years.

She tells the paper: "It will definitely be a once in a lifetime experience and I can always say that I was there."

Louis the First?

There are even more regal connections in this week's Down Recorder - was the latest addition to the Royal Family called after a County Down resident?

The paper speaks to a Crossgar couple who named their newborn son Louis Arthur, the same first names as that chosen by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge for their third child, born last month.

However, Linda-Anne and Matthew Gilmore's little prince was born in February - setting a trend and somewhat stealing the thunder of the fifth in the line to the throne.

Just a co-incidence? Perhaps, but then Linda-Anne reveals that she previously "crossed paths" with William and Kate, having attended St Andrew's University at the same time as the Royal couple.

"Maybe they heard about my choice of name," she jokes. "They weren't in my circle of friends but I do of course wish them well."

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The Royal couple may be surprised to hear Prince Louis Arthur is not the first of his name
Image copyright Philip Walsh
Image caption Crossgar couple Linda-Anne and Matthew Gilmore show off their newest little prince

The Gilmores believed they had picked a name for their baby that was "something really different", but now expect there will be lots of Louis in his class when he goes to school.

The Down Recorder leads with the inspiring story of a "big-hearted" teenager who came to the aid of her elderly neighbour after his home was badly damaged in an arson attack.

The pensioner's mobility scooter was destroyed in the fire in Downpatrick and 13-year-old Sophie McCarthy is trying to raise enough money to replace the vehicle.

The paper's editorial says the schoolgirl's actions are "in stark contrast to those responsible for the despicable act".