Northern Ireland

IRA play park and 'coin flip' killing

Front page of the News Letter, Thursday 14 December 2017 Image copyright NEWS LETTER
Front page of the Daily Mirror, Thursday 14 December 2017 Image copyright Daily Mirror

Broken political promises make the headlines in Thursday's papers.

The News Letter reports that the SDLP "broke our promise on IRA play park" to unionists.

On Wednesday evening Newry, Mourne and Down district council (NMDDC) took a vote on the name of McCreesh Park in Newry.

The SDLP did not vote for in favour of a change, even though they previously told unionists that they would.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption The park's name has proven to be controversial ever since its opening in Newry in 2001

The site is named after Raymond McCreesh, one of 10 IRA prisoners who died in a hunger strike in the Maze Prison in 1981.

His convictions included attempted murder, conspiracy to murder, possession of firearms with intent to endanger life and IRA membership.

On Wednesday councillors had the option of retaining the current name or choosing a new neutral one - but instead recommended a review of the use of the land, in partnership with the local community.

The SDLP and Sinn Fein voted 23 in favour of this option while nine councillors voted to change the name, The News Letter reports.

The SDLP's group leader at NMDDC the said the property would no longer be under council ownership in 2018, which would provide a solution to the dispute.

However unionists have claimed the change in ownership will not alter the name.

The Equality Commission has directed the council to consider an analysis of public responses on the name and put it to a public vote.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Gary Haggarty was a police informer for 13 years

Supergrass Trial

"Ready to kill at the flip of a coin" reads the from page of the Irish News.

The paper reports on the two-day sentencing of supergrass Gary Haggarty.

On Wednesday, Belfast Crown Court heard how Haggarty volunteered to kill Catholic Sean McParland, 55, to cover up the fact he was an informer.

Mr McParland was shot while babysitting in Belfast in 1994.

The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) was to decide the identity of the killer by flipping a coin, the court heard.

Haggarty, 45, a long-time police informer, has pleaded guilty to 202 terror offences, including five murders, as his part of a controversial state deal that offered a significantly reduced prison term in return for giving evidence against other terrorist suspects.

The hearing is due to conclude later on Thursday.

'Missed opportunity'

Meanwhile the Irish News reports that the chairman of Northern Ireland's Remain campaign was not asked to sign an open letter sent to the taoiseach about Brexit.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The letter urged Leo Varadkar to "reassure us of your commitment to stand for equality"

More than 200 nationalists, from a variety of sectors, signed the later urging Leo Varadkar to protect the rights of citizens here.

Image copyright Getty Images/Press Eye/Reuters
Image caption Republic of Ireland footballer James McClean, former GAA player Peter Canavan and filmmaker Terry George are among the letter's signatories

Tom Kelly led the Stronger In campaign during the 2016 EU referendum, and told the paper he was "rather surprised" he had not been approached.

"The organisers missed a trick by not reaching out to unionists who want to remain," he said.

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Media captionLady Hermon accused Mr Dodds of 'chuntering'

"They are currently without representation, as we've seen in the last few weeks with the attacks on Sylvia Hermon, anyone who does try to speak for them is labelled a Lundy."

Lady Hermon came under fire last week from Nigel Dodds, the DUP deputy leader and MP for North Belfast.

He accused the North Down Independent MP of "being on the side of the Dublin government" over Brexit.

Lady Hermon objected to Mr Dodds' "chuntering", saying she was neither "in the pocket" of the Irish government, nor in contact with Dublin on the matter.

'Inquisitive, not hostile'

A Catholic Ulster Unionist councillor has spoken out about how he and other Catholics want to remain in the United Kingdom.

Stephen McCarthy's grandfather was murdered by the UVF in 1991.

The 29 year-old, who was co-opted onto Antrim Newtownabbey Borough Council, said he joined the UUP as a teenager when he was growing up on the Falls Road.

"A few eyebrows were raised at home, but nobody told me not too," Mr McCarthy told the Belfast Telegraph.

"My experience in the UUP has been nothing but positive.

"Some rural members look a bit shocked when they hear my background but they're inquisitive, not hostile."

'Walking on eggshells'

The PSNI received a domestic abuse report every 18 minutes last year, reports the Belfast Telegraph.

The figures are at their highest for more than a decade, with 29,000 incidents reported.

It comes as the Police launched their Domestic Abuse Christmas Campaign with the message: "If you feel like you're walking on eggshells, that's domestic abuse".

Det Supt Ryan Henderson said: "For the abuser, it is a slow process of conditioning someone."

"It does not discriminate between age, gender, religion or class.

"We just want people to come forward. In my experience, this type of thing does not just happen once."

'Family comes first'

Comedian Peter Kay's apology to fans appears on the front page of the Daily Mirror after he cancelled his stage tour due to "unforeseen family circumstances".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Kay is one of the UK's most popular entertainers

About 1.7m tickets had been sold for the 112 shows, clocking up an excess of £85m.

"My sincerest apologies," said the 44 year-old.

"This decision has not been taken lightly and I'm sure you'll understand my family must always come first."

Fans were stunned but many took to twitter to show their support and to send the comic their best wishes.