Northern Ireland

Newspaper review: 'Paper candidates' and killer's exhumation

News Letter Image copyright News Letter

The looming general election and military veterans' calls for republicans to face prosecutions make the front pages of Thursday's papers.

"I'm not a token SDLP candidate" is the headline in the Belfast Telegraph.

The paper says the SDLP has denied that it is putting up a "paper candidate" - press officer Martin McAuley - in North Belfast.

Nationalist commentator Chris Donnelly has criticised the nomination and that of Mary Garrity in Fermanagh and South Tyrone as "low-profile and last minute".

However, Mr McAuley tells the paper: "I will be putting my all into the fight to win this seat," adding "I wouldn't be wasting my time if it was a token battle".

Meanwhile, the Irish News says that the use of several Orange halls in County Down for upcoming clinics urging unionist voters to "defend the union" has been criticised by nationalists.

The Irish News says that the campaign also includes a "unionist special election hotline" from which voters can seek advice ahead of the 8 June poll.

The SDLP's John Dallat says the campaign "calls into question the rationale for funding the Orange Order", while Sinn Féin also said it was "attempting to influence the political process".

Both the DUP and Ulster Unionists have defended the voter campaign. An Orange Order spokesman would not say whether it runs the campaign, but said it was a "positive development".

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Jim McCaw said veterans want parity of esteem

"Veterans: Republicans should face justice too" is the front page headline of the News Letter.

The call was made as former security force members gathered close to the Belfast headquarters of the Public Prosecution Service to protest against what they say is the current imbalance in the approach to alleged Troubles crimes.

The veterans contrasted the PPS attempts to prosecute 76-year-old former soldier Dennis Hutchings, with Royal Pardons given to republicans such as Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly.

Carrickfergus man Jim McCaw, who served with the UDR, RIR and Royal Artillery, tells the paper: "After the Good Friday Agreement, paramilitaries were given special status - as in reduced sentences, gates opened and let out.

"The armed forces didn't get anything. All we want is parity of esteem."

'Monster gone'

The removal of Cavan murderer Alan Hawe from his family's grave yesterday is the lead in the Daily Mirror. Hawe murdered his wife, Clodagh, and sons Liam, Niall and Ryan last August.

"Monster has gone" is the Mirror's headline.

Clodagh's sister, Jacqueline Connolly, said the family had been deeply distressed and shocked at the time of the family's funeral and as a result "the devil was put in that same grave as our beautiful Clodagh and our wonderful boys".

The story is covered in the other three papers, with Allison Morrison in the Irish News saying that a "constant reminder" of a killer has been removed.

Elsewhere in the Irish News is a warning that heroin laced with a tranquiliser used on elephants is being sold in Northern Ireland.

It says one of the opioids being mixed with the Class A drug is "4,000 to 10,000 times stronger than morphine".

A letter from chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride to GPs and other health care workers warns them to be alert to the "increased possibility of overdose" as a result.

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Image caption The Duchess of Cornwall is presented with a bouquet of flowers by Victoria Grieves at PSNI headquarters in Knock, east Belfast, yesterday

The visit of the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall is also covered in the papers and the News Letter features a tribute to the pupils of Dromore Central Primary School.

The Duchess officially opened the school yesterday and said it had a "wonderful atmosphere".

"I never seen such better behaved children," she added.

Finally, the Belfast Telegraph has the down side of the recent spell of fine weather we've been enjoying in Northern Ireland.

The paper says "that shrinking feeling" has hit Northern Ireland's reservoirs following the driest April since 1980.

The good news/bad news? A spokesman for NI Water says: "We expect the predicted rainfall over the coming weeks will help levels in reservoirs rise again."

We all knew it couldn't last.