Northern Ireland

Paper Review: War of words over strike action, Christmas tree row

nurse in scrubs Image copyright MartinPrescott/Getty

There's a common thread on this morning's front pages - the ongoing industrial action taken by health unions over pay and staffing.

A war of words has broken out on the front page of the Belfast Telegraph over the "chaos being experienced by patients".

The paper reports that "health bosses and unions have blamed each other".

The Belfast Trust had said cancelled appointments meant cancer diagnosis could be delayed.

However, the union Unison said the trust had not expressed any intention to cancel cancer diagnostic treatment and if they had those services would have been exempted from industrial action.

Image copyright MartinPrescott/Getty Images

In the News Letter it is reported that the secretary of state has "refused to get involved" in the health crisis.

Julian Smith, the paper reports, says that the only solution is the restoration of Stormont.

Before the collapse of the devolved institution in Northern Ireland in 2017, the DUP and Sinn Féin had not reversed a decision to break pay parity with the rest of the UK.

This left civil servants to implement the policy of the last executive, but no power to change it without a minister to take a political decision.

The Department of Health says they cannot give unions what they want without a minister.

In the Irish News, a local representative's personal story leads the front page.

Stewart Dickson tells the Irish News he does not know if an eight-hour-operation he is due to have will go ahead.

The Alliance MLA is being treated for oesophageal cancer and is "waiting by the phone" amid the uncertainty.

More than 10,000 outpatients appointments and surgeries have been cancelled as staff take part in industrial action.

'Embarrassing' tree

It's that time of year again - a row over a local council's Christmas tree effort.

The News Letter reports that Newry, Mourne and Down District Council has been left "with eggnog on its face"

This year Kilkeel has been accused of having the worst Christmas tree in Northern Ireland.

The official turning on ceremony took pace on Saturday and according to the paper there was a great atmosphere.

However, locals were let down by the lacklustre lights on the tree. One woman describes them as "embarrassing".

There is also some consternation over the amount spent on the trees in Warrenpoint and Newcastle, with Kilkeel folk feeling short changed.

The council said lights were damaged by wind last year, so this year they had only been hung along the main branches and a replacement will be erected this week.

Why is Northern Ireland's art hidden away? That's the question asked in the Belfast Telegraph.

The paper reports that councils own £14m worth of artwork, but many pieces are held in storage.

An FOI showed that 10 councils have more than 6,000 pieces of art.

Image copyright Belfast City Hall
Image caption This picture of Field Marshal Frederick Sleigh Roberts, painted in 1895, is owned by Belfast City Council

The Arts Council of NI says while all the publicly owned collections are not visible every day, councils do lend to exhibitions and make work available if people would like to see it.

However, Sam Packer from the Taxpayers' Alliance says councils are "hoarding artworks away from the public who own them".

"Art which no one is enjoying is wasted and should either be pulling in punters on display or sold to raise revenues councils are forever demanding," he says.

From art being behind closed doors to street art, The Irish News reports that a massive art exhibition at Belfast's largest peace wall has been vandalised.

More than 20 panels on the Wall On Wall project between the Falls and Shankill have been painted over with loyalist graffiti.

Jackie Redpath form the Greater Shankill Partnership said he believes it is the work of a lone person: "It in no way reflects on the exhibition which has brought the community together."