Northern Ireland

NI newspapers: Shipyard SOS and footballer's stalking shame

News Letter Image copyright News Letter
Daily Mirror Image copyright Daily Mirror

A plea to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to save one of Northern Ireland's best known businesses, the Harland and Wolff shipyard, leads Tuesday's News Letter.

Staff are pictured protesting outside the gates of the historic Belfast firm, in what the paper says is an "11th hour" bid to stave off administration.

A "Save Our Shipyard" banner has been hung from one of its giant cranes which have become landmarks in the city.

Workers have called on the PM to nationalise the shipyard to save jobs.

The paper says administrators are due to arrive on Wednesday, 31 July and there are fears the firm will not survive long enough to compete for potential Royal Navy contracts.

But inside, the DUP MP for East Belfast, Gavin Robinson says he is not sure if nationalisation is the "immediate solution".

"It's not the one you would jump to first. There have been talks with interested bidders," Mr Robinson adds.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption A "Save Our Shipyard" banner has been hung from one of H&W's giant cranes

The Daily Mirror leads with the "stalking shame" of an international footballer who formerly played for both Celtic and the Republic of Ireland.

A Scottish court was told Anthony Stokes bombarded his partner, Eilidh Scott, with up to 100 messages a day, and allegedly screamed abuse at her when she returned to her mother's house after a night out with friends.

The paper says the footballer was also accused of punching and kicking a vehicle belonging to a friend of Ms Scott in a jealous rage, after he had given her a lift home.

The court heard the couple, who have a young son, have since reconciled.

Stokes admitted a course of conduct over a six-month period which caused Ms Scott fear or alarm and will be sentenced in September.

The Irish News leads with an exclusive report into an alleged conflict of interest between a DUP's MLA political role and his private business interests.

The paper says South Antrim MLA Trevor Clarke is a partner in a consultancy firm which represents applicants who are seeking planning permission.

Image caption Trevor Clarke lost his MLA seat in 2017 but was co-opted back to the Assembly three months later

He set up Versatile Consultancy after losing his assembly seat in the 2017 election, but later that year he was co-opted back into the assembly to replace Paul Girvan who had become an MP.

Versatile Consultancy has been involved in several planning applications in the Antrim area and the paper says Mr Clarke spoke in favour of one of the applications when it came before a council planning committee earlier this year.

'Spiralling cost'

The paper has also uncovered evidence of phone calls and correspondence between the MLA and council official about the planning applications.

Sir Alistair Graham, former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, tells the Irish News the incident appeared to be a "major conflict of interest".

A DUP spokesman said Mr Clarke's firm "offers advocacy as well as site maps/drawings etc, beyond anything offered in the representative role of an MLA".

The spiralling cost of hiring temporary agency nurses makes the front page of the Belfast Telegraph.

It reveals that Northern Ireland health bosses have paid out more than £43m to just one nursing agency, the Scottish Nursing Guild, over the past five years.

The paper adds that the same agency "raked in £4.4m between April and June this year alone".

It says SNG nurses earn £59 an hour working in hospital wards during bank holidays, according to a Freedom of Information request.

The Telegraph also reports that a man who was previously jailed for his role in the death of a police officer is back in prison for attempted robbery.

In 2013, Conor Clarence stole a car and was a passenger in the vehicle when it crashed into a police car, killing 27-year-old PSNI Constable Philippa Reynolds.

Image copyright PSNI
Image caption Constable Philippa Reynolds was killed in a stolen car crash in 2013

On Monday, 30-year-old Clarence was jailed again after a court heard he threatened to stab a pregnant shop manager in Limavady in June 2018.

The judge was told be tried to rob a clothes shop and a service station on a busy Saturday afternoon, after taking a "bewildering cocktail" of drugs and alcohol.

'England's difficulty'

In an opinion piece for the Telegraph, commentator Alex Kane ponders the "dilemma" Sinn Féin faces in talks to restore devolution at Stormont.

He argues that Brexit has made the prospect of a united Ireland seem "closer now than it has been for almost a century", referring to a recent Conservative party poll in which a majority of party members believed "letting Northern Ireland go" was a price worth paying to leave the EU.

Mr Kane says Sinn Féin's Irish unity project "now depends on either a hard Brexit or a no-deal" whereas a soft Brexit or no Brexit at all would push a border poll "back to the fringes of debate".

He adds that a restored Northern Ireland Assembly would create a kind of "normalcy in which it would make it more difficult to fully capitalise on the present 'England's difficulty is Ireland's opportunity' moment".

'Tastefully done'

The Irish News continues its coverage of a row over Rathfriland water tower, after the top of the 110ft structure was covered in red, white and blue paint and flags around the 12 July.

Image caption Rathfriland tower has been covered in flags and paint for weeks

NI Water reported the incident to police on 16 July, describing it as a break-in in which intruders broke a lock and scaled the tower without it permission.

But DUP MLA Jim Wells tells the Irish News the placing of the flags was "very tastefully done" and claimed those involved have been admired for their "tenacity".

Finally, a former police Land Rover, used by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) during the Troubles is set to pick up a very different kind of passenger.

The grey armoured vehicle has been bought by a private collector who plans to hire it out for weddings and birthday parties.

The Irish News says it is not the first time west Belfast man Art Corbett has causes a stir with his ex-Army vehicles.

In 2001, he bought a Saracen and parked the personnel carrier in the driveway of his mum's home in Ballymurphy.