Northern Ireland

NI paper review: A unionist poll plea and Ombudsman pressure

letter Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Twenty-five local figures have sent a letter outlining their "strong opposition" to splitting the unionist vote in north Belfast

Pressure on the Police Ombudsman and Troubles legacy proposals which "equate police officers with terrorists" features across Thursday's front pages.

We start with the Belfast Telegraph, where senior unionists in north Belfast have warned incoming UUP leader Steve Aiken that his opposition to electoral pacts could hand seats to Sinn Fein.

Twenty-five local figures have sent a letter outlining their "strong opposition" to splitting the unionist vote in the constituency.

The newspaper reports that the letter notes that the north Belfast seat has always returned a unionist MP, but they believe this is now in jeopardy.

They tell Mr Aiken that the "only consequence" of running a candidate against Nigel Dodds, the DUP's sitting MP, will be to help Sinn Fein.

Mr Dodds is defending a majority of just over 2,000 and faces pressure from Sinn Fein candidate John Finucane.

Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Steve Aiken, MLA for South Antrim, will be the Ulster Unionist Party's new leader and has already ruled out electoral pacts

The Irish News reports on the police ombudsman being urged to publish its report into the Sean Graham bookmakers massacre after the emergence of new material looks set to again delay publication.

The documentation was found during new PSNI searches of its Troubles archive, coinciding with a recent IT upgrade.

It is the second time the ombudsman will have to delay the report into how police investigated the 1992 Ulster Freedom Fighters gun attack.

'Had enough'

In February, the PSNI apologised and said it would review its IT systems for disclosing information after it emerged that disclosure provided to a legacy civil case had not been shared with the Ombudsman.

The information was thought to have included sensitive material relating to the attack on the lower Ormeau bookmakers, where five people were killed.

The newspaper reports that Tommy Duffin, whose 66-year-old father Jack Duffin was one of the victims, said families have "had enough" and urged to the Ombudsman to present the information they have.

Image caption The attack at Sean Graham bookmakers in Belfast in 1992 was carried out by the Ulster Freedom Fighters

Next, we have the News Letter and fears that proposals for dealing with the legacy of the Troubles risk equating police officers with terrorists.

Mark Lindsay, chairman of of the Police Federation of Northern Ireland described the new proposals as "offensive" in London on Wednesday.

Mr Lindsay was giving evidence to Northern Ireland Affairs Select committee in Westminster.

He said new proposals had "an intention to rewrite the history of the 35 years of a terrorist campaign".

He added: "We are concerned that Northern Ireland will be a place where police officers retire from sterling service to communities, only to be branded as suspects."

Image caption Emma Little Pengelly said the budget 'lets down the people'

And finally, we have the Daily Mirror, where it reports that a budget to ensure public services can continue in Northern Ireland has been approved in the Commons.

It will authorise the Department of Finance in Northern Ireland to borrow money and approve it use given the absence of an executive.

Secretary of State Julian Smith said: "We have a duty to ensure that public services can continue to be provided to all citizens."

South Belfast MP Emma Little Pengelly said there had been a lack of transparency with the bill, adding: "It was rushed through with little scrutiny. It lets down the people."