Northern Ireland

Newspaper review: Troubles payments and RHI inquiry funding

Front page of the News Letter on Friday
Image caption Front page of the News Letter on Friday
Front page of the Daily Mirror on Friday
Image caption Front page of the Daily Mirror on Friday

The Belfast Telegraph reports that some victims of the Troubles are having their annual cash support payments slashed in half as Stormont cuts start to bite.

It says a former member of the security forces has been told that his yearly payment of £2,250 is being reduced to £1,000, which will mean a reduction from £43 a week to £19.

Up to 5,800 people could be affected by the changes resulting in a cost saving of between £5m and £7m for the government body established to administer the money.

The newspaper says the detail was released by the Victims and Survivors Service (VSS), a limited company established by the NI First and Deputy First Minister in March 2012.

The News Letter leads with the story that taxpayers will fund virtually every lawyer at the Renewable Heat Incentive inquiry at rates of up to £200 an hour.

The newspaper's political editor Sam McBride says it had been known that the inquiry's own legal team would be funded by taxpayers.

But he states that now almost all of the major witnesses will have their costs "funded by taxpayers via another route".

He adds that one of the clauses in the terms under which that funding is being allocated has raised concerns as it warns witnesses that the money could be recouped in certain circumstances. The inquiry has said that no one has yet been granted legal representation from its funds.

The arrest of a teenage girl and a 25-year-old man over assaults at a Belfast park on Thursday afternoon makes the front page of the Daily Mirror.

Police were called to Botanic Gardens following reports of an "altercation" in the park.

The man was arrested on suspicion of assault occasioning actual bodily harm while the girl, who is 17, was detained on suspicion of common assault.

Police say they were aware "there may have been other assaults in the area" and have appealed for witnesses.

The Irish News reports that the Police Ombudsman is investigating claims by a survivor of the Miami Showband Massacre that cold case detectives failed to investigate a wrist watch said to have been found at the scene.

Lead singer Fran O'Toole, guitarist Tony Geraghty and trumpeter Brian McCoy were shot dead in the UVF attack in 1975. Singer Des Lee and guitarist Stephen Travers survived the tragedy despite being shot.

Mr Travers has made the claims about the wrist watch which he said was presented to him by the son of a former RUC member.

A spokesman for the ombudsman has said an "investigation is ongoing". Det Insp Jason Murphy from the PSNI's Legacy Investigations Branch said the case was investigated and reviewed by the HET and that "there were no outstanding lines of enquiry identified".

Meanwhile, the Daily Mirror says a police officer has been disciplined for conducting what has been described as an "appalling" investigation into an allegation that a man struck a teenage girl in the face with a golf club.

Late romance

A report into the incident was compiled by the Police Ombudsman after a complaint by the girl's mother.

The girl reported that the assault happened in north Down in late 2014. The PSNI has confirmed that the officer has been disciplined following the Ombudsman's report.

The UK and Ireland premiere of the film The Journey, a drama about how Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness forged a political deal and personal friendship, is covered in a number of the newspapers.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Colm Meaney (left) and Timothy Spall who star in The Journey

Actor Colm Meaney, who plays Mr McGuinness in the film, is quoted in the News Letter saying he hoped it could nudge politicians in Northern Ireland "towards an agreement again".

Timothy Spall, who stars as Mr Paisley in the film, told The Irish News he believed the story of the DUP and Sinn Féin representatives was relevant to the current political situation.

"If these two men representing the two opposite sides can do it, surely it has got to be a beacon for hope and a massive flare-up in the sky for keeping it going," he added.

Finally, the Belfast Telegraph reveals that age is no hurdle to finding true love as Hester an 88-year-old Larne woman has wed her 90-year-old beau John from New Zealand.

She emigrated to Australia in 1961 and had not laid eyes on Mr Blackler until a chance bus encounter sparked a whirlwind romance.

Hester's first husband, Clarrie Parker, died in 2005, aged 83.

John admitted any thought of a traditional marriage proposal had to be dismissed.

"If I had got down on one knee, I'd have needed two people to lift me up," he joked.