Northern Ireland

What the papers say


Journalist Fionola Meredith takes a look at what is making the headlines in Tuesday's newspapers.

The closing arguments of the Hazel Stewart trial are the top story in the Belfast Telegraph.

Inside the paper, the question of prison reform in Northern Ireland comes under scrutiny, after Monday's damning report warned that 'fundamental change' was needed, and branded the current regime ineffective, demoralised and dysfunctional.

It is blindingly evident that the system needs radical reform, says the paper's editorial, adding that the union must not be allowed to stifle reform as it has done in the past.

It says that Justice Minister David Ford must bring staff on board and make jails a better place for inmates and staff alike.

And the Telegraph also has a great picture of starlings performing their aerial acrobatics in the evening sky over the Albert Bridge in Belfast.

As dusk falls, thousands of the small birds can be seen dipping and diving in perfect formation.

The paper says that little is known about how the starlings actually do this with such impressive precision. But it's an extraordinary sight.

The Irish News focuses on the conviction of senior loyalist Mark Harbinson.

It reports that Harbinson, an Orangeman who rose to prominence during the Drumcree stand-off, faces a jail term of up to 10 years after being convicted of sexually abusing a schoolgirl.

Inside the Irish News, the paper also makes the case for the urgency of prison reform, while admitting the sheer scale of the task of changing a service that in many ways remains stuck in the past.

And columnist Fionnuala O'Connor reflects on Sinn Fein's successes in the Republic's election.

She says that Sinn Fein still have their work cut out for them, not only in forging a credible economic platform, but in making sense of their twin existences, north and south - making them complement each other rather than clash.

Elsewhere, the papers contemplate the prospect of military action against Libya.

The Daily Telegraph says that Western leaders are on the brink of ordering military action against Colonel Gaddafi, amid fears that he could use chemical weapons against his people.

But there are conflicting views over whether this is the right way to take a hard line against Gaddafi.

The Times thinks it is, claiming that there is no other moral course of action.

But the Mirror is concerned about the 'sound of sabres being rattled in Downing Street', and warns that deploying troops in Libya would risk an Iraq-style disaster.

And finally, there's no getting away from extensive coverage of the Oscars.

Once you get past the euphoria around Colin Firth's win, most of the attention is focused on the outfits, with the usual marks out of ten for the female stars in the Daily Express and the Mail.

Much excitement about Helena Bonham Carter's saucy Union Jack garter which, we are told breathlessly, wouldn't stay put on her thigh and kept slipping down her leg.

Meanwhile, the Matt cartoon in the Daily Telegraph brings a different perspective. It shows Colonel Gaddafi's latest rant. He says 'and by the way, I hated the Kings' Speech'.

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