Northern Ireland

NI newspaper review: 'Yellow fever' on Alliance's 'Long day'

Tuesday's Daily Mirror front page Image copyright Daily Mirror
Tuesday's News Letter front page Image copyright News Letter

After an outbreak of a political "yellow fever", as the Daily Mirror puts it, a joyous Naomi Long is splashed across the front pages.

The Alliance Party leader's remarkable victory in the European election shocked her as much as the pundits but they have not been shy in handing her the plaudits.

All four of Northern Ireland's daily newspapers feature a shot of her celebrating with her husband Michael.

But her's wasn't the only big story - the collapse of the Ulster Unionists also dominates the opinion columns and the prognosis for the party isn't good.

Back to the Alliance Party for a moment, though.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Naomi Long has "brought passion and fire to the middle ground", says Suzanne Breen

Belfast Telegraph political editor Suzanne Breen points out that before its outstanding performance in this month's council elections, the party had been hoping to "break through the magic 10% [vote share] barrier".

"Never could it have imagined three weeks later that it would secure a staggering 19% of the vote, the highest since its formation almost half a century ago," she adds.

"Before her leadership, the party was seen as worthy but dull - dominated by do-gooders who... would bore you to death.

"Long has impressively rebranded Alliance and brought passion and fire to the middle ground."

Parallels with Paisley?

Sam McBride, the political editor at the News Letter, draws what one might at first consider to be an unlikely parallel between Mrs Long and the former Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Ian Paisley.

"Although her politics is the antithesis of Paisleyism, the template for Naomi Long's swashbuckling victory was set by [Mr Paisley]," he begins.

Image caption Unlikely as it seems, there are similarities between Ian Paisley and Naomi Long, says Sam McBride

"Recognising the opportunity which a Northern Ireland-wide single constituency provided a charismatic and media-friendly candidate, he dominated European elections long before his party dominated politics.

"But where Paisley harnessed unionist voters' intrinsic fears, the Alliance leader's victory is more remarkable because of her centrist message."

The Alliance Party's "surge" in this month's elections is the "closest thing to a sea change regional politics has experienced for some time", according to the Irish News political editor John Manley.

The paper also says that Mrs Long will have to be replaced as an MLA because rules prevent her from double-jobbing in both Brussels and Stormont.

'Disastrous' election for unionism

As for the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), its tactics are widely questioned - Jon Tonge in the Belfast Telegraph wonders how sensible it was for the party to switch to a pro-Brexit stance.

"Given that most Northern Ireland voters want to remain in the EU, the logic of the UUP in switching sides to supporting leave was questionable.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Unionists - including Robin Swann (left) and Jim Allister - have plenty to ponder, says Ben Lowry

"The unionist leave-the-EU market was already a crowded marketplace in which it made little sense to jostle with the DUP and Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) bruisers."

Offering some sort of consolation for the party in the News Letter, Ben Lowry writes that the European election result was "bad, almost disastrous" for unionism "as a whole", not just the UUP.

The "feeble" 42.9% of the vote won by unionist candidates is one of the lowest share unionism has ever received in a Northern Ireland-wide election.

There is "little sign" that unionism has a plan for its way forward, he says, drawing attention to the "limited pool of talent" that could spark a resurgence.

'Big tasks' for new PSNI boss

After a few days to celebrate his appointment as the Police Service of Northern Ireland's (PSNI) new chief constable, Simon Byrne must realise he faces "significant challenges", says the Irish News.

Image caption Simon Byrne will find plenty of big issues in his PSNI inbox, says Allison Morris

In her analysis of what lies ahead for for ex-Cheshire Police head, security correspondent Allison Morris writes that his "biggest task" could be "winning the approval" of rank-and-file officers.

"The last chief constable recruited from outside the jurisdiction - Matt Baggot - had an uncomfortable time in the top post," she recalls.

And she says Mr Byrne will also have to get a handle on cross-border policing in the age of Brexit, the threat posed by dissident republicans and the lack of nationalist confidence in the police force.

All aboard? Or maybe not...

Now, if you thought those were big asks, what about the impossible challenge faced by Ryanair cabin crew on a flight to Belfast at the weekend?

The Belfast Telegraph reports that they couldn't work out how many passengers were on board the plane before its departure from London Stansted Airport, causing a near-two-hour delay.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Ryanair cabin crew had difficulty in getting numbers to add up on a flight to Belfast

A simple count of bums on seats would solve that, surely. But no...

"Despite several aircrew coming on the plane and checking boarding passes on three occasions before take-off, passengers claim it soon became clear that they couldn't account for all those who were due to fly," states the paper.

One "disappointed Ryanair customer" tells the paper that he witnessed "chaotic scenes".

"There [were]... a few raised voices so it was quite tense at times as we couldn't see an end in sight."

'Fire' in Frampton's belly

Finally, a quick glance at the sport pages, where Belfast boxer Carl Frampton makes an appearance.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Carl Frampton (right) wants to "come back with a bang" in his next bout

He tells the Irish News that his next title will mean more to him than "any other world title that I've won".

Ahead of his comeback fight this summer, the Jackal is training at the 5th Street Gym in New York.

So what's his plan?

"To get back up on my toes, use my boxing and go out and take someone out," he growls.

"I'd like to look explosive and come back with a bang."