Northern Ireland

NI newspapers: 'Borderline Brexit deal and a head on a plate'

Flags Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption There are reports the PM has offered a concession to the EU that would effectively create a customs border in the Irish Sea

Possible new customs make the front pages of Wednesday's papers and they will not be to everyone's taste.

The News Letter says the UK is believed to have proposed a new Brexit deal to keep Northern Ireland in the UK customs territory but operating under EU rules.

Sinn Féin is preparing for a deputy leadership election with virtually no debate, according to the Irish News.

And a Belfast restaurant serves up both intrigue and disgust with its latest dish - a pigeon's head on a platter.

Let's start with Brexit, as "intense negotiations" between the UK and EU continued into the night to try to strike a deal.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) attended a 90-minute meeting in Downing Street during which it was briefed on Boris Johnson's latest plans.

'Far off the mark'

Leader Arlene Foster dismisses speculation that the latest proposal amounts to a Northern Ireland-only backstop.

Image copyright Daily Mirror

She said any agreement must respect the "constitutional and economic place of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom".

"When I hear talk of the Northern Ireland backstop... I think the things are very far off the mark," she added.

However, the Daily Mirror claims there is "unionist fury" after the DUP's meeting with the prime minister.

It speculates that Mr Johnson has offered a concession to the EU that would effectively create "a customs border in the Irish Sea".

The Mirror adds that the DUP leader insisted: "We must remain with the UK's customs union. It's a principle we have... and that will forever be there."

'No debate'

Sinn Féin is about to stage a deputy leadership election, but it's all very hush, hush, according to the Irish News.

Image caption John O'Dowd announced his challenge to Michelle O'Neill more than six weeks ago

It says it understands the party has "moved to shut down internal debate" about John O'Dowd's challenge to the current holder of the post, Michelle O'Neill.

Sinn Féin members will take a vote at the party's ard fhéis (annual conference) next month, but there will be no hustings and the candidates will not speak to the media about the contest, says the paper.

It adds that more than six weeks after announcing his challenge, Mr O'Dowd has yet to appear publicly to speak about it.

A Sinn Féin spokesperson said it was "impractical" to organise hustings, adding all candidates would have the opportunity to speak to ard fhéis delegates and distribute election material ahead of the vote.

The front page of the Irish News also carries a call to end the Kingsmills inquest into the IRA murders of 10 Protestant workmen in 1976.

The men were shot dead in an ambush as they travelled home from work close to the County Armagh village.

Unusually, the call to end a long-running Trouble-era investigation comes from the victims - relatives of the 10 men and the sole survivor of the attack, Alan Black.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Alan Black survived the Kingsmills attack, despite being shot 18 times

The families, who held a high-profile campaign for justice, complained that the process has been thwarted by delays, cancellations and much material is still "cloaked in secrecy".

In a statement to the paper, they said there have been a "mere two hearings" over the past 18 months.

They added it is "pointless and even cruel to subject us to further suffering".

'Weird art'

A north Belfast Protestant church that closed last year because it could not attract enough numbers has been bought by a Catholic institute based in the Republic of Ireland.

The News Letter reports that Fortwilliam and Macrory Presbyterian Church has been purchased for an "undisclosed sum" to the Institute of Christ the Sovereign Priest, based in Limerick.

The institute, which conducts Masses in Latin, said the building will "remain open for Christian worship".

The deputy clerk of the Presbyterian Church's General Assembly told the News Letter: "Given that Fortwilliam and Macrory congregation's kirk session preferred that it would not be sold to a secular organisation, it was bought by a Catholic religious institution."

He added that the proceeds of the sale will go to the General Assembly's Council for Mission in Ireland and the Presbytery of North Belfast's Urban Mission Trust.

Finally, the Belfast Telegraph reports that a gourmet restaurant has "ruffled feathers" by serving up a "bizarre" dish of lamb stuffed with a pigeon's head.

It was created to celebrate the Belfast restaurant's sixth birthday.

The paper says that although the dish went down well with "cooing" diners in the restaurant, it left a bad taste for others when photos of the dish were posted on Twitter.

The paper's food critic, Joris Minne, admits pigeon head is "not everybody's cup of tea" but added it should be "no more shocking that a whole fish on the bone".

The restaurant's owner said the dish was "weird, but it's a work of art".