Northern Ireland

What the papers say


Journalist Mike Philpott takes a look at what is making the headlines in Wednesday's newspapers.

The looming spending cuts are the big talking point in Belfast.

The Irish News talks of "cracks in the Executive" as Sinn Fein ministers refuse to submit ideas for savings to the finance minister, Sammy Wilson.

The paper quotes a Sinn Fein spokesman as saying that the party "didn't accept British Tory cuts".

That message is at odds with the sentiments expressed in the comment columns.

The Irish News says the spending cuts will be "a key test of the political maturity of our ministers, who need to demonstrate a joined-up approach to an issue which will impact on thousands of households".

The Belfast Telegraph says "it's time for grown-up politics", and although ministers may want to protect their own budgets, it's vital that a strategic approach is taken, rather than a piecemeal one.

'Excessive pay'

It believes we'll soon see if politicians of all parties "are up to the task of providing effective and efficient government".

The News Letter argues that the cuts must also apply to the salaries of senior civil servants.

The Executive, it says, can't expect the public to swallow huge cuts while tolerating excessive pay.

HM Revenue and Customs isn't having a happy time of it after its blunder over tax coding. And the papers seems to take some delight in rubbing salt into the wound.

The Express calls it "a sprawling empire of bureaucracy and waste", while the Independent talks of an authority that "runs on a culture of bullying and fear".

It notes that 44 million calls to HMRC from concerned taxpayers went unanswered last year.

The paper suggests that the scale of the errors may be much greater than so far admitted. It believes there could be mistakes in nearly 24 million cases.

The Times, with a heavy dose of irony, wonders if the tax codes were allocated by a bingo caller.

Addressing the Revenue directly, it says we're all happy to pay what we're asked, because after all, what are taxes for, if not to fund quality government services like yours?

Bailed out

Money - not surprisingly - is still a major talking point in Dublin, featuring in two of the three stories on the front of the Irish Times.

Under its main headline, it reports that holders of Irish government debts have increased their interest rates because of fears about the strength of the country's banks - in particular the Anglo Irish, which has been bailed out by the taxpayer to the tune of 25 billion euros.

The paper reports in a secondary story that Anglo Irish has set aside another 700 million euros to cover potential losses on borrowings by the businessman Sean Quinn.

The Irish Independent leads with the news that the embattled senator, Ivor Callely, has begun a legal battle to overturn an investigation into his expenses and to seek damages.

It calls the action "unprecedented".

Finally, the Mail is one of several papers to report on a survey indicating that many of us try to show friends how much we know about wine - only to mispronounce the name of a grape or make some other faux pas.

Respondents admitted to complaining that a wine was corked - to be told that it came from a screw top bottle.

But most embarrassing of all was the diner who demanded that his glass was topped up to the brim, to be informed by the waiter that he was only inviting him to taste it.

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