Northern Ireland

NI paper review: Ulster player apology and political vacuum

front page of the Daily Mirror Wednesday 4 April 2018 Image copyright Daily Mirror
front page of the News Letter Wednesday 4th April 2018 Image copyright News Letter

An apology from an Ulster rugby star who sent a "totally inappropriate" WhatsApp message about women makes the headlines on Wednesday.

Craig Gilroy, who has made 160 appearances for the team, has apologised "unreservedly".

On Tuesday, some newspapers named Mr Gilroy as the person who sent a sexually explicit message that came to light in the recent rape trial of Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding.

Both men were acquitted of all charges.

Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Craig Gilroy has made 160 appearances for Ulster and has also been capped for Ireland 10 times

Ulster Rugby and the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) have confirmed that Mr Gilroy is subject to an internal review and will not play for Ulster this weekend in their match against Edinburgh.

The Irish News reports that the move comes following a press conference on Monday in which Ulster Rugby coach Jono Gibbes indicated that the player would be available for selection.

The Daily Mirror reports that the Ulster coach also admitted that events surrounding the trial and acquittal had been "difficult".

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Both Stuart Olding and Paddy Jackson were found not guilty in unanimous verdicts

Meanwhile the Belfast Telegraph reports that a number of media outlets are due to challenge reporting restrictions imposed during the case at Belfast Laganside courts on Wednesday.

Judge Patricia Smyth said that a number of restrictions which applied during the nine-week trial would remain in place pending further hearings.

'Take victims at their word'

The News Letter headline reads "PSNI no plan to alter stance on sex claims".

The paper reports that police say they take people who make sexual assault claims "at their word" when investigating.

It comes after the police and prosecution service faced scrutiny for their handling of the high profile Ulster rugby rape trial.

PSNI Det Supt Deirdre Bones told the paper it was PSNI policy to "take victims at their word and to follow up on all possible lines of enquiry which may or may not support the account provided by the victim".

Image copyright Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye
Image caption PSNI Land Rovers were attacked with petrol bombs

'Sinn Féin could do more'

DUP MP Gregory Campbell has called for the restoration of devolution, to prevent people being sucked into a "political vacuum", reports the Belfast Telegraph.

He made the comments following violent scenes at an illegal republican parade in the Creggan estate in Londonderry during an Easter Rising Commemoration on Monday.

During the event, police officers were attacked with petrol bombs and stones by young people.

"When a political vacuum is allowed to emerge then people will try and fill that vacuum," Mr Campbell told the paper.

"I do think Sinn Féin could be doing more."

However Sinn Féin MLA Karen Mullan refuted his claims and said the "DUP collapsed the talks process rather than restore political institutions on the basis of equality and rights and which can deliver for all."

'Never saw this coming'

In County Down, the mother of a 14-year-old who died suddenly in February has spoken to the Irish News about her grief.

Niall O'Connor, who was a keen hurler, was found dead at his home in Portaferry. It is believed he may have taken his own life.

Caroline O'Connor told the paper that Niall's death had left her "numb".

"I think the worst thing is how quiet the house is. You just feel empty," she said.

"We never for a second saw this coming."

MP apology over retweet

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Ian Paisley said he had only glanced at the Katie Hopkins tweet before retweeting it

The Daily Mirror reports that Islamic representatives in Belfast have welcomed an apology from a DUP MP who retweeted a controversial remark posted by right-wing commentator Katie Hopkins.

Ms Hopkins' tweet read: "March 2018. London has a higher murder rate than New York... and Ramadan's not yet begun."

Ian Paisley said he only "glanced" at the tweet and did not take "cognisance" of the Ramadan reference. He has since deleted the retweet.

The Belfast Islamic Centre contacted Mr Paisley and have invited him to visit their centre and meet members of the community.

Victims Forum fallout

Coverage of controversy surrounding the participation of a convicted IRA bomber in the Victims and Survivors Forum continues in the News Letter.

The paper reports that SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly said: "It shouldn't be a surprise for any unionists that someone who was both a victim and a perpetrator was on the victims forum."

At the weekend, Jackie Nicholl, whose 17-month-old son Colin was murdered by the IRA in a bomb attack in 1971, resigned from the forum after finding out that fellow forum member Robert McClenaghan had served prison time for bomb offences.

Mr McClenaghan's grandfather was one of the victims of the UVF McGurk's Bar bombing in 1971.

Ms Kelly added that those calling for the resignation of the Victims Commissioner, Judith Thompson, "are being disingenuous".

"To date, all I've heard is praise from all corners into how Judith Thompson has represented the forum and conducted herself in her role."