Northern Ireland

NI paper review: rape trial evidence dominates papers

front page of the News Letter Thursday 8 March 2018 Image copyright News Letter
front page of the Daily Mirror Thursday 8 March 2018 Image copyright Daily Mirror

The rape trial of Ulster rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding dominates headlines on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Mr Jackson gave evidence for three-and-a-half hours from the witness box about his recollection of the night in question.

Image caption Paddy Jackson, who denies rape , said he had no idea his accuser was upset when she left his house in June 2016

He said he had been "pretty drunk" but insisted the woman consented to sexual activity, adding she "was enjoying it".

It was the first time Mr Jackson, who denies rape and sexual assault, has appeared on the witness stand. Mr Olding also denies rape.

'Reputation for racism'

The lack of executive funding for a new race relations officer in east Belfast has been described as "disgraceful", reports the Daily Mirror.

Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) Councillor John Kyle made the comments while welcoming Belfast City Council's commitment to pay £10,000 for the next two years.

Dr Kyle said: "Sadly east Belfast has a reputation for racism.

Image caption Dr John Kyle said crucial issues were being ignored by the DUP and Sinn Féin

"Now we have funding from the council for a race relations officer, but I have to say it's extremely disappointing the Executive Office have dropped the ball on this one.

"Race relations is in the bailiwick, but they have failed to help with this."

An Executive Office spokesman said all funding applications are considered against programme-specific eligibility criteria.

'Not enough protestants'

"Not enough protestants working for us" reads the front page of the News Letter.

Image caption DUP MP Gregory Campbell said there is no threat to Arlene Foster's leadership

The paper reports that the Housing Executive has claimed it does not employ enough Protestant workers in the west of Northern Ireland.

It says that less than a quarter of the 335 staff are Protestant, while 75% are Catholic.

DUP MP Gregory Campbell told the paper he has contacted the Equality Commission, adding: "This is symptomatic of other parts of the public sector."

Chief Executive for the Commission, Dr Evelyn Collins, has written to Mr Campbell outlining that the information is currently being considered.

'Not serious about devolution'

The DUP's Simon Hamilton has told the Northern Ireland Affairs committee the executive is unlikely to be back in action until next year, reports the Irish News.

Image copyright Parliamentary copyright
Image caption Simon Hamilton told MPs at Westminster that trust between the two main parties had 'broken down'

On Wednesday, Mr Hamilton told the committee that a "scorched earth" policy by Sinn Féin had made relations frosty with his own party.

He said: "The prospects for a return to devolution in the short term are bleak.

"Their (Sinn Féin's) behaviour in recent days and weeks suggests to me that they are not serious about getting devolution back," he added.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Karen Bradley is Northern Ireland's Secretary of State

Power sharing at Stormont collapsed in January 2017.

The most recent talks aimed at restoring the executive collapsed over a disagreement on legislating for the Irish Language.

Later on Thursday, Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley is expected to make a statement in Westminster about the regional budget and MLA pay.

Fitting tribute

The father of a groom who died while on honeymoon has told the Belfast Telegraph of his surprise that his family restored the vintage car he was due to repair with his son.

Image copyright Rodgers family
Image caption Newly-weds Lynette and John Rodgers were on honeymoon in South Africa

John and Lynette Rodgers, from Holywood, drowned while on honeymoon in South Africa in October 2015.

During their wedding, John promised his father, Billy, that they would restore his MGA together once he returned home.

Image caption The couple were on honeymoon at Plettenberg Bay

Following the tragedy, Mr Rodgers' family teamed up with local actor and family friend, Jimmy Nesbitt, and the producers of Car Show SOS to repair the car.

Billy Rodgers told the paper it was a fitting tribute to his son.

"Now when I looks at the car, it will always remind me of John and the happy times we shared," he added.