Northern Ireland

NI Weekly Paper Review: Primark fire and bombing of a landmark

front page of the Strabane Chronicle Thursday 6 September 2018 Image copyright Strabane Chronicle
front page of the Londonderry Sentinel Wednesday 5 September 2018 Image copyright Londonderry Sentinel
front page of the Down Recorder Wednesday 5 September 2018 Image copyright Down Recorder
front page of the Impartial Reporter Thursday 6 September 2018 Image copyright Impartial Reporter

Fire fallout in Belfast, a new beach in Newcastle and memories of a Troubles bombing are among the stories in our weekly newspaper round up.

But first, we'll start with the story of a County Fermanagh woman who has awoken from a coma following a fatal car accident.

Rachel Elliott, who suffered serious head injuries in the crash, makes the front page of the Impartial Reporter.

Two other people in the car were killed - Shiva Devine and Conall McAleer.

Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Shiva Devine and Conall McAleer died when the car they were passengers in hit a wall

In an exclusive interview, she told the paper that she had been "given another chance at life".

"I honestly am probably one of the luckiest people on this planet to be alive today after the car accident," she says.

"I have only found out in the past few days that I lost two friends in it. It has been hard to try and hide the fact I have lost Shiva and Conall."

She added: "I haven't learned how to deal with that yet. I am still in shock. I don't know how to feel about it."

Image copyright RTE

'Horrific and totally needless'

Meanwhile, the paper also carries an interview with Trevor Birney, one of two journalists arrested by the PSNI in connection with the alleged theft of confidential material used in a documentary about the Loughinisland massacre.

Mr Birney, who was born in Enniskillen, was arrested along with Barry McCaffrey and then released.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Barry McCaffrey (left) and Trevor Birney were questioned by detectives but later released

They produced the documentary No Stone Unturned which investigated the murder of six men by loyalist paramilitaries in 1994, as well as claims of state collusion.

The PSNI inquiry centres on the suspected theft of sensitive material, which was used in the film.

Speaking to the Impartial Reporter, Mr Birney said the police called to his home at 07:00 with a search warrant and described it as "horrific and totally needless".

"None of us should have had to go through that, but especially the children," he said.

"All the kids were still in their bedrooms when armed PSNI officers began swarming into the house."

Walker's Pillar

Up in the north west, the Londonderry Sentinel leads with the anniversary of one of the city's best remembered incidents from the Troubles - the bombing of Walker's Pillar.

The 100-foot pillar looked out from the City's Walls towards the Bogside for almost 150 years and was topped with a statue of Rev George Walker, a governor of the city during the Siege of Derry.

It was 45 years ago that the Provisional IRA blew the pillar and statue to rubble. No one was injured but the act was seen as highly symbolic.

The Sentinel reports that the destruction of the pillar "continues to be keenly felt by the unionist community" of the city.

"The people who were around back when that attack took place can still remember it clearly and it was keenly felt by the Apprentice Boys," said Graeme Stenhouse, governor of the Apprentice Boys.

Broken ribs, back and elbow

In other news, the paper reports that the exact circumstances of PSNI involvement in a fall in which a woman was left in intensive care remains unclear.

The Police Ombudsman investigated the incident in which the woman suffered 12 broken ribs, a broken back and a broken elbow after a fall at her home in Strabane, County Tyrone.

The woman claimed a police officer had pushed her down the stairs after coming to arrest her son but the officer denied the claim and said he had tried to get past the woman on the stairs as her son fled.

The Police Ombudsman found no "evidential grounds" to confirm either account and so closed the case with no recommendation for disciplinary action.

Image caption Lidl bought a shopping park in Strabane in May

In County Tyrone, a £6m supermarket investment makes the front page of the Strabane Chronicle.

German supermarket company Lidl bought a shopping park in the town in May but the extent of its multi-million pound investment has only just come to light, the paper says.

SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan says it's a "very exciting investment opportunity for Strabane and our local economy".

'Upgrade should be priority'

The paper also reports the view of a road expert that continuous delays to the A5 dual-carriageway upgrade has caused "preventable deaths".

Wesley Johnson spoke out after three lives were lost on the road in the space of 24 hours.

An upgrade of the road has been long-planned and, in an editorial, the newspaper says it should be made "a priority".

Image caption The planned A5 upgrade runs between Newbuildings and Aughnacloy

"It's now over nine years since the plans for the A5 dual-carriageway were first unveiled. Almost a decade later and still we're left dreading the next fatality," the paper says.

'We deserve better'

In County Armagh, the Ulster Gazette carries the headline "Armagh has spoken" on its front page, following a demonstration in the city over the ongoing Stormont stalemate.

The 'We Deserve Better' campaign held protests across Northern Ireland, including in Armagh last week with hundreds in attendance.

The mass rally heard that a dormant Stormont is preventing progress and government departments are not getting policies signed off by ministers, the Ulster Gazette reports.

Image caption Hundreds of people gathered at locations across Northern Ireland

The paper also reports that a new BMX track could be set to get the green light despite opposition from some residents.

The bike track has been earmarked for a green field site beside the Epicentre youth facility in the city and features floodlights allowing for night-time use.

However, that is one of the issues under which local residents have objected.

The council's planning committee will decide whether or not to back the project later this month, the Ulster Gazette reports.

Traders feel the heat

Image copyright PA
Image caption The fire started near the top of the Bank Buildings and quickly spread through the floors

In Belfast, the Andersonstown News leads with the fallout from the Primark fire in the city centre.

"Castle Street traders feel the heat after Primark blaze" is the headline on the front page.

It reports that some businesses will remain closed and others will be hit by the affects of a cordon around the gutted shell of the building, which has heavily reduced footfall on Castle Street.

The Andersonstown News spoke to many of the traders affected by the fire, who say that more must be done to help their businesses.

In an editorial, the newspaper writes that "we can all play our own part and support the businesses in Castle Street, by spending our money there".

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption The new buses link east Belfast, west Belfast and the Titanic Quarter with the city centre

Meanwhile, the paper also reports that the jury is still out on the city's new Glider Rapid Transit Service.

It says that there had been some teething problems but not the level of disruption predicted by some following the Glider's introduction.

However, some parents at a west Belfast school expressed concerns that a Glider bus lane will leave them with nowhere to drop off or pick up their children.

Fiona Keegan, the principal of St Kevin's Primary School, said: "I don't think it's an ideal situation at all. It's very unfortunate that our parents are now in a position where they have nowhere safe to drop their children off in the mornings and are being forced into the local streets, which is causing congestion."

A trip to the beach

Meanwhile, to many Northern Ireland day trippers, Newcastle in County Down is the ultimate seaside resort, synonymous with 99 ice creams, swimming and golden good times.

But could there be a golden-sanded upgrade to Newcastle Del Sol?

According to the Down Recorder, there's a "radical suggestion to bring a touch of French summer flair" to the town via a pop-up beach.

Newry, Mourne and Down County Council are investigating the cost of developing an artificial beach on top of the resort's promenade.

Don't grab your bucket and spade yet - the council are still at the early stage of looking at the feasibility of the idea but it was unanimously approved for further investigation. Bring on the sand!

Meanwhile, an organist near Crossgar is preparing for a marathon bit of Rock Me Amadeus as he tunes up for a 12-hour stint at the instrument.

Image copyright BBC School Report

Rev Mark Spratt, the minister at Kilmore Presbyterian Church, is preparing to play organ and piano non-stop to raise funds for the church - a full half a day, from 09:00 BST to 21:00 on Saturday, 15 September.

It's not the first time the minister has taken on a gruelling keyboard challenge.

"I did a 12-hour marathon before in 2014 and that time we raised just over £2,000 for the Women's Association and other church activities."

He also has completed two other 12-hour marathons but, the paper notes, he's aware it's four years since his last attempt.

"I will have to make sure to have a good cushion so I don't get a numb bottom," he says.