Northern Ireland

Paper review: No same-sex marriage 'opt-out' clause, Wrightbus woes

hand holds a heart painted like a LGBT flag, silhouetted against sun Image copyright Getty/Roman Didkivskyi

Life's rich tapestry is covered in this morning's papers - a bus company's finances, same-sex marriage, and a solicitor who stole from his clients.

"No business opt-out in gay marriage law" - The News Letter claims that hoteliers, florists and wedding photographers will be unable to refuse same-sex wedding couples.

The papers reports on plans drawn up by the Northern Ireland Office (NIO).

It reports that they "spell out in black and white that whilst it envisions giving churches an opt-out clause over ceremonies no such exemption will apply to marriage services".

The news was uncovered by a question submitted by TUV leader Jim Allister in response to a government consultation.

Mr Allister says the NIO's stance contrasts with the 2018 'gay cake' Ashers bakery ruling.

Ciaran Kelly, from The Christian Institute, tells the paper: "Since the courts have declared that support for traditional marriage is a belief worthy of respect in a democratic society it would be better still if small business owners like florists and photographers were left to operate according to their conscience on marriage too."

'Extremely hurtful'

In the Belfast Telegraph, the former director of Wrightbus hits back at revelations uncovered in BBC Spotlight.

The programme revealed that the parent company of Wrightbus made a £1.35m donation to a religious charity when the County Antrim bus builder was in deep financial trouble.

Wrightbus went into administration in September 2019 owing creditors £58m.

In January 2019, its parent firm Cornerstone made the donation to Green Pastures Church.

The paper reports that Pastor Jeff Wright says any claims money was wrongly donated are untrue.

It also says the church leader is "deeply concerned" about how the issue has become "personalised".

In a statement, Mr Wright said: "A view is being peddled that Cornerstone Group Limited was wrongly paid dividends by Wrights Group and that Cornerstone wrongly used these monies to make donations towards the development of our church - that could not be further from the truth and is extremely hurtful and damaging."

Image copyright PA

Jeff Wright also revealed details about death threats issued to the family after the company entered administration.

The wider Wright family said they had acted appropriately and lawfully at all times.

'Almost obsessive interest in horse-racing'

On the front page of the The Irish News - a report on a lawyer who stole almost a million pounds from his firm and its clients to fund a "horse-racing obsession".

Graham Keys, of Lurgan Road, Glenavy, in County Antrim was jailed for two years and three months.

Between March 2006 and July 2015, Keys "helped himself" to £856,714.89 from the clients account and to £83,931.01 from the company account.

He admitted a total of 21 charges.

His defence lawyers said Keys "accepted unequivocally" that he was responsible for "creating havoc with his own firm".

The judge described him as a "highly gifted and capable solicitor" who used his "legal knowledge and ability" to "systematically siphon" funds using "camouflage and concealment" over a prolonged period.

The judge said he accepted the money was used to "indulge his almost obsessive interest in horses and horse-racing".

Image copyright Getty Images

Sinister activity

Reusable cups are generally lauded as an environmentally friendly and handy option for takeaway teas and coffees -all in all they're good eggs.

However reusable cups cannot being used with hot drinks bought on cross-border Enterprise trains.

The Irish News reports that emails released under a Freedom Of Information request show a manager at the catering company that provides services for the Dublin-Belfast train told a customer such cups are not used due to "potential dangers including staff poisoning".

The manger also said that because the service was cross-border it has the "potential to be targeted for such sinister activity".

The service is jointly operated between Irish Rail and Translink.

However Translink's response does not mention a sinister element for the decision.

A spokeswoman said that only an Enterprise-branded reusable cup may be used because it is "compatible with the drinks trolley".

She said the cup had been specially designed to be used with the onboard catering equipment.

Never too late

In the News Letter, a Cullybackey actress in her 70s makes her debut on the London stage.

Helena Bereen has had a long career and been in movies such as Hunger and the Devil's Doorway but she has never set foot on a stage in London.

But - better late than never - she has now appeared in On McQullian's Hill, a play about an IRA man, in the Finborough Theatre.

The production comes two years after its writer, Derrymacash playwright Joseph Crilly, took his own life.

In the Belfast Telegraph there are tributes to a Belfast man killed by a fallen tree in Hampshire during Storm Ciara.

Kenneth Ronald Montgomery, 58, was killed when a tree fell on his car.

Mr Montgomery left Northern Ireland in 1979, aged 18 and became successful - owning his own shop in Winchester.

His family said he was "passionate about his family, dogs and will be sorely missed by everybody that knew and love him".

The Conservative MP Steve Brine paid tribute to him as a "gentleman".